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Experiencing the law in a fast-paced, dynamic country

In November 2015, 35 law students departed for a one week intensive at the University of North Carolina Law School – Chapel Hill (UNC) and a second week in Washington D.C. The focus of the trip was to examine aspects of criminal procedure and criminal law in the USA and compare these to various Australian experiences.

Lectures at the UNC were delivered by two leading criminal justice professors and also included a site visit, which focused on the content of the lecture. Students were given access to a number of important institutions and personnel including the Central Prison at Raleigh, a 1000 bed maximum security prison that includes a death row section; District Courts, where participants witnessed a  debrief with the District Attorney and a Judge; and an Orange County Sherriff’s office, where students were taken through all aspects of law enforcement in North Carolina, including first-hand experience of riot gear, fingerprinting, criminal investigation and the dog squad.

At the end of the first week students heard first-hand from the North Carolina Innocence Project about the issue of wrongful convictions in the state and the innovative commission and 3 Judge Review process set-up, which is unique to the USA.  Greg Taylor, an exonoree, who served 17 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit, spoke at length about his experience and his journey to prove his innocence.

During week two, students travelled to Washington D.C. where they had the unique opportunity to visit the FBI headquarters. Students were given a weapons demonstration to explain the history of the FBI and the reasons for evolving weaponry use, an account of the jurisdictional scope of the FBI’s work, access to the FBI museum and they were taken to the ‘inner sanctum’ for crisis management. Many students saw this experience as a highlight of their time in Washington D.C.

Other notable activities included a visit to the Supreme Court of the United States, Congress and the Law Library of Congress. The Department of Justice also delivered lectures on two separate days and prosecutors from the Gangs, Organised Crime and Fraud divisions were exceptionally generous with their time.

Planning for the USA Criminal Justice Study Program in 2016 is underway and more information will be published on our ‘Enhance your study’ website soon.

Student testimonial:

‘I highly recommend the USA Criminal Justice Study Program to all law students. Each day provided a new experience that was personally and academically fulfilling.  Apart from the opportunity to connect with local academics and get involved in university life, I really enjoyed meeting members of the judiciary and local law enforcement.  You might also take advantage of postgraduate opportunities at the oldest public university in the United States. Washington D.C. was great sightseeing including Capitol Hill, the Holocaust Museum, the Federal Supreme Court and a visit to the FBI.  As an elective unit, you will make new friends and have networking opportunities that will enhance your learning beyond expectation!’ – Nicole Dawson

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