FIU offers first international criminal justice Ph.D. in the country

When New Jersey-native Harry Rhea wanted to dedicate his career to international justice, he traveled more than 3,000 miles to the National University of Ireland in Galway, Ireland.

He didn’t have a choice. No criminal justice program exists in the U.S. offering doctorate degrees on international criminal justice. That is about to change.

Scales of Justice“Traditional criminal justice studies have been reluctant to expand beyond topics like corrections, courts and juvenile delinquency. I found it unfortunate that issues like war crimes and genocide are not in the curriculum and I had to go to Europe to get this specialization,” said Rhea, an assistant professor of criminal justice and of law.

Typically, American students must pursue law degrees if they want advanced focus on international crime and justice. This fall, the FIU Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Arts & Sciences, plans to launch a Ph.D. in International Crime and Justice program. Students will focus on topics such as immigration and crime, human rights and human trafficking.

For Rhea, the new degree program has been a personal endeavor and in FIU he found the perfect fit with a prime location. Florida, with its proximity to Latin America and the Caribbean, is known as a hotspot for human trafficking, sexual slavery and forced labor — crimes that tend to be more prevalent in border states.

The Ph.D. program will train graduates to effectively address the challenges faced by criminal justice organizations in Florida, nationally and internationally.

“Miami consistently ranks as one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. We also have one of the largest police departments in the country,” said Lisa Stolzenberg, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. “Not only will this program bring in people from all over the world to think about crime from a global perspective, but it will also cater to local practitioners who want to earn a doctorate degree and lead their agencies. It fits perfectly with our university’s global learning initiative.”

With issues of terrorism, transnational crime and national security spanning the globe — from crimes against humanity in Syria to genocide in Darfur and cyber attacks in North Korea — Rhea says this degree program is needed now more than ever.

“In the case of terrorist groups like Al’ Qaeda and ISIS, we’re not sure where they fall under international criminal law because it’s traditionally used against countries,” Rhea said. “We’re moving along as an international community in how we confront these evolving and challenging issues. Having practitioners who are educated and trained to effectively address these problems is critical.”