The Academics of Crime

Rachel_headshotName: Rachel Tassoni
Home University: Rochester Institute of Technology
DIS Copenhagen Summer Session 1 Course: Psychology of Criminal Behavior
DIS Copenhagen Summer Session 2 Course: Positive Psychology

Hej! As I hit the halfway mark of my time here in Copenhagen, I thought it would be a good chance to reflect on my first three weeks. I have already explored so much of the city, but I feel that there is so much left that I still have to see.

With that being said, I think it’s important to look back at what I have learned in class so far, as this is study abroad! I just finished my class, Psychology of Criminal Behavior, and I must say it has been one of the most hands-on classes that I have taken. I was drawn to criminal behavior because I’ve always been a big fan of crime shows (CSI, NCIS, and Law & Order SVU are a few of my favorites). Additionally, I am completing a Psychology minor at my home university. So I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone and learn more about why people commit crimes, and take a class that will count towards my minor? It was definitely a no-brainer for me.

My professor for the class, Lars, is a practicing psychologist himself, and works in the Danish prison system. Because of his first-hand knowledge, the material that we discussed in class wasn’t just dry information from a textbook. It’s a very free-flowing class where we get to talk about his experiences in the field and how they relate to the different theories on why people commit crimes. Additionally, throughout the class Lars brought in other professionals from different aspects of the field. For example, we were able to talk to someone who works with mentally ill people who commit crimes and someone who was actually in prison for a short period of time.

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We walked around Copenhagen and talked about communities and the troubles they face, and what is being done to combat crime in the area

Although every aspect of the class has been enjoyable, my favorite part has been the field studies that we have been on. One was to a juvenile detention center that focuses on rehabilitation. Rather than staying in a cell all day, the youth who qualify for the program are able to live at the center, go to school, and develop their skills. It’s a system focused on improvement and development rather than punishment. We discussed the detention center in class, but seeing it in person gave me more insight on how the program is run and better understand the Danish prison system compared to the U.S. system. It was something that I wasn’t expecting to do, but I learned a lot about what the Danes value.

We visited another program that was dedicated to helping Danish Youth, Idraetsprojektet (the Sports Project). Christopher Hansen, the man behind the program, gave us some insight on the program, and then had us participate. We got to play either basketball or soccer with some youth involved in the program, or we could complete a meditation session (I opted for meditation). After our own firsthand experiences with the program, we talked with some of the trainers involved, who explained the methods they use to keep kids off the streets and keep them from committing crimes.

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Monument made out of guns confiscated from the area, symbolizing better times

Going to different parts of Copenhagen and learning more about the initiatives that Denmark has to keep teenagers from committing crimes, and just rehabilitation programs in general, has been the highlight of the class. I never would have expected so many differences between the United States justice and prison systems versus the Danish systems. I understand why there is much less crime here in Denmark than there is in the United States. The whole class and experience has been eye-opening for me. Plus, going out to lunch with our professor after class is pretty cool, too!

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Food from the vegetarian buffet at Riz Raz, where we ate one day before class

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