Students enrolled in the Criminal Justice System course, taught by Assistant Professor Carina Gallo, visited Santa Rita Jail this spring. The facility houses approximately 4,000 inmates, and is the third largest jail in California and the fifth largest in the nation.
The students toured eight cell blocks that segment inmates based on their security status. Students also viewed recreational facilities, dining halls, and doctors administrating medical services.
“We got to see the different levels of care that they classify the inmates as,” junior Joseph Frenz said. Frenz said that regardless of the security level the cell blocks are divided between a space for the general population and individual cells for higher security.
The students who visited the jail are majoring in criminology, and many of them are interested in becoming correctional officers. Although students appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the criminal justice system, several students said that the visit was an overwhelming experience.
“Experiencing how many African Americans are incarcerated—it was really depressing. I know that they are criminals and they have to pay for their crimes, but I also felt that there is nothing human about a jail,” said Keyra Stafford, a senior. “It was a good experience because of the field that I am going in, but as a citizen and a human being it was a lot to take in.”
Another student said that the experience reemphasized her desire to help people.
“I think it is super easy to lose sight of the purpose that you go in with as a correction officer or a deputy. You think you are going in with a stable mindset of wanting to help people, but . . . it is easy to lose sight of that,” senior Sandra Galván said. “It reminded me that I don’t want to do that—I don’t want to lose sight of that purpose.”
The visit complemented students’ exploration of the three components of the criminal justice system—policing, courts, and prisons and jails. Students also visited a number of local courts to broaden their understanding of criminal justice.