New Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice program first of its kind in Canada

Brock University is launching a transdisciplinary Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice (FPAC) program this fall that will be unique in Canada.

Starting in September, the program will offer a four-year Major or Honours degree from the Faculty of Social Sciences.

“This is an innovative and timely program that reflects Brock’s priorities of providing a transformative experience for students,” says Ingrid Makus, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. “We are ready to welcome the first cohort of students in Fall 2021.”

The new program draws on courses and faculty research and expertise in the Departments of Psychology, Political Science and Child and Youth Studies.

“FPAC is a rich and unique program, exploring forensic psychology and the criminal justice system across the lifespan and disciplines,” says Voula Marinos, Associate Professor in the Department of Child and Youth Studies. “It will provide students with multidimensional and critical perspectives about why people engage in crime and institutional responses at individual, social and systemic levels.”

Marinos collaborated with Angela Book, Professor in the Department of Psychology and Associate Professor Matthew Hennigar in the Department of Political Science to develop the program in response to a growing number of students seeking out courses in forensic psychology. They saw the potential for a program that not only met this need, but also took advantage of Brock’s commitment to transdisciplinary research.

“My work lies at the intersections of law, criminology, sociology, forensics and disability studies,” says Marinos. “I am aware of the common threads that cut across these disciplines and the benefits that a wide breadth of knowledge can bring to research, policy and practice within the criminal justice system.”

Book says that by combining a variety of approaches to the study of criminal and aggressive behaviour, students will gain a much broader understanding.

“Rather than assuming that a behaviour or a system’s response to behaviour stems from any one factor or perspective, FPAC is premised on the idea that factors across disciplines are required in order to provide more nuanced, critical and complex understandings of behaviour and responses,” says Book.

In consultation with law enforcement, clinical forensic institutions and fellow faculty members, Book, Marinos and Hennigar have built a program that will give students the opportunity to learn about individual, social, cultural and systemic factors that influence criminal behaviour to help prepare them for careers in law, corrections, counselling, policy analysis and advocacy.

Students in the program will also gain practical experience with community partners in law enforcement, forensic research and clinical settings through the fourth-year thesis and practicum courses.

“Our faculty has many links to the community which will provide students with enhanced learning from professionals within the mental health, disability and justice fields,” says Marinos.

Hennigar says these experiential education components will help students see how the theories and research they cover in their courses apply to real-world settings.

“It’s one thing to read about forensic psychology and another to work with, for example, counsellors or first-responders who interact with offenders daily,” says Hennigar. “It also, of course, helps students see where they can go with their degree.”

Book, Hennigar and Marinos are eager to welcome the first cohort of the program in the fall and to help students appreciate the importance of multiple perspectives when it comes to the criminal justice field.

“I think it is important that people who study criminal behaviour have a good understanding of how political forces and institutions shape how we, as a society, define and address crime, and that students interested in the more institutional dimensions of justice have a strong foundation in the social and psychological factors that are associated with criminal behaviour,” says Hennigar.

Marinos also believes the program can help prepare students to approach their future careers in a more rounded and critical way.

“While the goal should always be to use the criminal law sparingly and in the least intrusive ways possible, it is vital that those interested in working within forensics and the criminal justice system at the levels of policy and practice are equipped with the right tools and foundations,” says Marinos.

Applications for the program are now open, but space is limited for Fall 2021 admission. Please visit this website for more details and to apply.

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