Forensic studies in criminology: Fostering skills in critical analysis
Dr Loene Howes1
1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
Criminology has much to offer in critically analysing the role of forensic science in the criminal justice system. While forensic science is a topic of fascination and intrigue, popular understandings do not always accord with the realities. Recent critiques of forensic science – and how it is used in the system – highlight a need for greater forensic literacy amongst criminal justice practitioners and the broader public. This presentation discusses a suite of forensic studies units that take a critical social sciences perspective. Criminology students (in Arts, Arts/Law, Justice Studies, Policing, and Psychology degrees) develop their understanding of criminal justice systems and processes as they examine the impacts of various institutional arrangements on perceived and actual bias in forensic science and how poor practices have disproportionately impacted certain groups, reflecting structural inequalities. They employ skills in critical analysis, engage in contemporary debates, and discuss innovative research on the use of forensic science to achieve just outcomes. The presentation draws on feedback from students and the teaching team. It considers how well the units meet their aims of equipping students to undertake nuanced analyses and how the units may be further enhanced in their next iterations.
Loene is a senior lecturer in Criminology and a senior researcher in the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies at the University of Tasmania. She undertakes research in policing, forensic studies, and higher education. She is interested in how effective interagency, interdisciplinary, and intercultural communication can contribute to improved justice outcomes.