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American Today

In the Community

SPA Program Helps Ex-Offenders Transition

By Adrienne Frank

Hunt and Lucas

For nearly a decade, the Agencies in Cooperation for Effective Services (ACES) program has been connecting criminal justice students with ex-offenders trying to reintegrate into neighborhoods throughout Washington.

“Students will tell us they wish they had learned about the program earlier,” said Greg Hunt, who co-teaches the 500-level, experiential learning class with Aaron Lucas. And with the launch of a new Web site this week, ACES will better connect with students interested in the Justice, Law and Society (JLS) program. “The new site will give us more visibility and, hopefully, generate more interest among students.”

ACES gives undergraduate and graduate students a glimpse into the workings of the criminal justice system, and helps them identify opportunities to make a difference. In the classroom, they learn how to interview, assess, and counsel a variety of defendants and ex-offenders, including those suffering from a mental illness or substance abuse issues.

Students then apply those skills at halfway houses, juvenile institutions, state and federal probation offices, and drug treatment centers. Working one-on-one with clients, students help them create résumés and navigate a maze of social services. Some students manage their own cases and lead group counseling and education sessions.

“JLS students generally want to be lawyers or FBI agents. In this class we expose them to a different career path within the criminal justice system—one that can be incredibly rewarding,” said Hunt, who worked as a U.S. probation officer for 20 years before coming to AU.

“With thousands of offenders returning to society every year, we provide a service in an area with a great need. And I’m just proud AU students can be a part of that.”

Previously located on the Justice Programs Office Web site, the new ACES site is housed on the JLS homepage. Students can browse ACES partner agencies and apply for the fall 2011 semester.