Criminal justice prof talks travels, conference in India

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 at 7:12 PM

Dr. George Richards, associate professor of criminal justice, recently organized a conference titled: “International Symposium on Victimology and Criminal Justice: Global Perspectives.” It was co-sponsored by Edinboro University and Manonmaniam Sundaranar University (MSU) in Tirunelveli, India. The conference was held from Nov. 8-10 in Kanyakumari, India. 

The conference had presenters from all over the world, including Germany, the U.S. and Mexico. “Considering this was a first-time conference, I’m very pleased with the turnout and pleased with the quality of presenters who registered,” Richards said, reflecting.

The criminal justice professor has made several trips to India over the past year. “While there, I have been fortunate to lecture and deliver workshops. I’ve learned a great deal about the Indian system of criminal justice and criminal justice in Southeast Asia. It has certainly helped give me an insight that I can bring back to the classroom here,” he said.

Richards explained that when incorporating his trips into the classroom, he doesn’t want to make it a, “this is what I did in India” type of lesson. “I try to incorporate it when it is applicable in lecture. For example, one of the things I have been exposed to while I was there has been the plight of the marginalized (those with little to any power or influence), particularly women in refugee camps and children. The issues that they face — sexual assault, domestic violence, etc. When we discuss those issues in class, I am now able to use real examples, not only from the U.S., but from other parts of the world.”

When asked what prompts his visits to refugee camps, he said: “I don’t know quite how to phrase it. I felt compelled to do it.”

“I visited refugee camps in three cities: Hyderabad, Delhi and Chennai. These housed Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, formally Burma. I will never forget those experiences. I will never forget visiting those camps. You can see pictures of these camps. You can see video of these camps on the news and you can read accounts. But there’s no substitute for visiting them because the pitiful conditions assault all five senses.”

Richards talked about the day he spent with a doctoral student in Delhi. The student gained access to a camp and arranged a tour and a meeting with residents. “We got to meet camp leaders and were able to talk with people who live there. It has given me an insight that I have never had before,” he said. “I knew it was bad, but I had no idea how bad.”

Dr. Delbert Rounds, chairperson for the criminal justice, anthropology and forensic studies department, commented on Richards’ recent trip and what it means to have him as a professor in the department: “His global views, his view of the world. If you listen to him talk about the experiences he’s having while going through refugee camps, and how poor the communities are, he describes the smell, the odor, the stench. And yet, he still wants to go do that and help people. He wants to provide a means for other people to help people.”

“Personally, I get a great deal out of it as well,” Richards said, reflecting on the groups of doctoral students he met. “The first group of graduate students I was able to meet in Chennai, there were 10 doctoral students. For those 10, there was one textbook. They all chipped in to be able to get it, and they share it. Several of them rode the bus to campus each morning. They would take turns reading to each other from the textbook. Helping in that regard means a great deal to me.”

In discussing the differences between India and the U.S., Richards said that the most obvious is “quality of living and quality of life issues.” 

“India certainly considers itself a third world county. Poverty in India is vastly different than poverty in the U.S.” Richards explained that in the more westernized cities, such as Delhi, poverty is more in the outskirts or in certain parts of the city.

“In cities like Tirunelveli and Chennai, it is much more blatant [and] in your face. You see people, entire families sleeping on street corners at night because they have no place else to go,” Richards said. “You see them picking through garbage for food, for clothing, for essentials of life.”

“He truly epitomizes what a full professor is,” Rounds said. “He has taken on scholarship at a higher level. He has taken on leadership, not just locally or nationally, but globally.”

Rounds also mentioned that Richards has won two of the three awards available on campus for professors. Richards was named one of two 2010 “Educator of the Year” awards, and in 2017 was named “Advisor of the Year.” Rounds also mentioned all of the articles that Richards has had published.

“He’s kind of quiet about it,” Rounds said. “He doesn’t go around bragging about it or anything.”

Rounds closed the interview with saying this about Richards: “He’s challenging himself. He has high expectations for himself, and for his students.”

For advice, Richards said: “I would encourage students to travel [and] see other parts of the world. But don’t go to resort areas. Go off the beaten track. Get lost and have to find your way back. Learn how to communicate without speaking the language and make yourself understood.” 

Richards spoke highly of the Edinboro campus Global Education Office and the opportunities that they can bring to students. “I certainly encourage people to take advantage of that. It will change you in so many ways [and] expand your world view. I wish I had done it when I was an undergraduate and graduate student. I didn’t take advantage of these opportunities. Frankly, I didn’t know the opportunities that were available to me as a student. That is something I regret.”

Kelly Staschak can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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