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Released July 20, 2004


LONG BEACH, Miss. -- Students in the criminal justice and political science programs of The University of Southern Mississippi will now have new statewide opportunities for on-the-job training with major state agencies.

University officials announced that as of July 1, the Office of the Attorney General, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, and the Mississippi Department of Corrections entered a new partnership with Southern Miss to provide internship opportunities to students in the university's Department of Criminal Justice and Department of Political Science. Attorney General Jim Hood was on hand to acknowledge the mutual benefit the new partnership would provide for the Attorney General's Office and for Southern Miss.

Dr. Tom Payne, acting chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, recognized the importance of existing community partnerships to the thriving criminal justice program at Southern Miss Gulf Coast.

"First, we want to thank our community partners who help us train our criminal justice students," Payne said, referring to the strong working relationship between the Southern Miss criminal justice program and local law enforcement. "Now, for the first time in our department's history, we have entered into formal memorandums of understanding with state law enforcement, state legal (agencies), and state corrections agencies," he said.

Since interns will work for the agencies at no cost, Payne said the experience is good for all involved. "This greatly enhances our students' ability to apply what they've learned in the classroom to a real-world scenario," he said. "We are bridging the professional with the academic, which is a great benefit for the student and the agency that provides the internship."

As a result of the tremendous growth in criminal justice enrollment, the department also announced the addition of three new professors on the Coast, effectively doubling the size of the department's faculty.

As part of their formula for success, the criminal justice and political science programs have maintained a strategic alliance with the Southern Regional Public Safety Institute and the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, which has generated millions of dollars in grants, including a new $745,575 Rural Law Enforcement Training Grant that takes the training "on the road" to the officers and helps cut down on training costs to local law enforcement agencies. These grant funds also help to enhance academic research and provide training and jobs for graduates of the criminal justice and political science programs.

Looking to the future, Payne anticipates adding a forensic science major to the criminal justice program and continuing expansion of teaching and training opportunities on the Coast and Hattiesburg campuses.

"We eventually hope to train forensic crime scene specialists in the criminal justice department and have both undergraduate and graduate majors in forensic science," Payne said.

The criminal justice and political science programs boast more than 140 students on the Coast. For more information about these programs, contact Southern Miss Gulf Coast at (228) 867-8776.


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July 23, 2004 11:06 AM