Tour of Mexican Prison on Tap for WTAMU Students
Hollywood’s depiction of a Mexican prison is a pretty good deterrent to actually visiting one, but 20 students at West Texas A&M University will do just that when they travel to San Miguel de Allende June 12-23 as part of the College of Education and Social Sciences Go Global initiative.
The group of criminal justice and education majors, along with four WTAMU faculty members, will get an inside look at the criminal justice system in Mexico by touring a state prison and visiting the city’s police headquarters, talking with officers and learning about the judicial and court administration with local judges and attorneys.
“We wanted to give the students a unique look at criminal justice through the country’s policing, courts and cultural aspects,” Dr. Keith Price, associate professor of criminal justice and sociology and trip adviser, said. “Seeing the reality of the criminal justice system there will better prepare our students academically for their chosen careers.”
Choosing San Miguel de Allende as a destination wasn’t just happenstance, either. Three years ago the WTAMU Department of Education more or less adopted an orphanage in San Miguel, and education students travel there each summer to work with the children. When Dr. Eddie Henderson, dean of the College of Education and Social Sciences, approached Price and Dr. Harry Hueston, associate professor of criminal justice and trip adviser, about a study abroad trip to San Miguel, the two were open to the suggestion.
“We decided to give it a shot and explore the possibilities,” Hueston said. “Eddie (Henderson) knew the lay of the land and had contacts and translators so we traveled down there to see what we could do.”
The site trip to San Miguel was an eye opener for the two faculty members. Hueston, a former chief of police, and Price, a former prison warden, found an old colonial city, full of cobblestone streets and brimming with culture.
“It was an experience for us,” Hueston said. “And we learn more every time we go down there.”
The trip not only will give the students a look at the criminal justice system, but it also will expose them to a country rich in culture. In addition to tours of jails and police stations, the 20 WTAMU students and four sponsors will take in the city’s culture through walking tours of churches, museums and schools. They also will work with the children at the orphanage, learn Mexican folk songs and take salsa lessons.
“Culture is a big part of this trip,” Price said. “It’s already changed our vision, and we hope it will change our students’ vision, too.”
The 20 students—12 criminal justice majors and 8 education majors—are taking the trip with an incomplete in their criminal justice or education courses for the spring semester. The trip will count as 30 percent of their final grade in their respective course, based on a final paper on what they learned in San Miguel. Hueston and Price also will require the students to write in their journals every day.
Faculty members traveling as sponsors with Hueston and Price are Dr. Robin Capt, assistant professor of education, and Cynthia Lewis, instructor of education.
“Many of these students have not ventured this far into Mexico,” Hueston said. “I predict their perceptions will be radically changed—it will be an educational experience with a positive result.”