Experiential Learning: LSC-University Park criminal justice students explore Huntsville Prison

By: Shelley Steagall
| Published 03/25/2024

Lone Star College-University Park criminal justice students gather on the steps of the Huntsville Unit, ready to embark on an educational tour that bridges classroom theory with the realities of the correctional system.

HOUSTON, TX -- Breaking away from traditional classroom settings, twenty-five Lone Star College-University Park (LSC-University Park) criminal justice students, guided by assistant professor Alicia Castillo, recently explored the inner workings of Huntsville Prison.

Part of a first-hand initiative by the college's criminal justice department, the March 20 trip aims to enrich textbook knowledge with a tangible understanding of the criminal justice system's human aspects. This trip is the fourth such trip Castillo has taken with students since 2018.

"The opportunity to walk through Huntsville Prison and see the faces behind the numbers we study is profound," Castillo reflected. "These are real people with stories that deserve to be understood beyond the confines of statistics. It's a lesson in empathy and justice that I hope our students carry with them."

The visit included a rare chance to interact directly with inmates engaged in various craftsmanship workshops, highlighting the potential for rehabilitation within the prison system.

Professor Jermaine Johnson, Ph.D., the college’s criminal justice department chair, leads a similar excursion to Angola Prison in Louisiana each fall. He emphasized the value of these experiences. "Exploring different correctional facilities exposes students to a spectrum of rehabilitation strategies, enriching their understanding of our complex criminal justice system."

As part of their coursework, students will connect their observations to semester-long studies, crafting papers that reflect on the personal and academic implications of the visit. "The excitement and engagement from the students is why I do this," Castillo said.

LSC-University Park's Criminal Justice Department remains dedicated to offering these invaluable experiences, bridging the gap between academic theory and real-world application. Dave Gaer, dean of behavioral sciences at LSC-University Park, praised the initiative's role in preparing students for future careers. "Our goal is to not only educate but to inspire change. These visits challenge students to think critically about the system and envision ways to improve it."

LSC-University Park offers more than 70 programs of study, including credit and non-credit courses, workforce training, and continuing education classes. Classes are available during the day, evenings, and weekends in traditional, online, and hybrid formats. To learn more about LSC-University Park’s criminal justice department visit, For information on taking classes or to register online, visit, call 281-290-2600, or email

Established in 2012, Lone Star College-University Park has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing and most innovative higher education institutions in the country. The college, led by Virginia M. Fraire, Ph.D., is devoted to impacting the community's prosperity and upward mobility through student success. LSC-University Park’s expert and compassionate faculty and staff provide students with holistic and immersive education and training in disciplines and industries that meet current and future workforce needs.

Located on the grounds of the former Compaq Computer Corporation and Hewlett Packard's world headquarters, LSC-University Park's facilities include the Center for Science & Innovation, the Energy & Manufacturing Institute, Learning Innovation Labs, and the Geology Rock Wall. It is also home to the University of Houston-NW Downtown, Lone Star Corporate College, iSchool, and YMCA Children's Academy.

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