In May of 2010, NYLS teamed up with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a college within the City University of New York located around five miles north in Manhattan. Starting sometime next fall, the schools will offer the joint degree together.
”It will provide student the great benefits of having courses being taught from the two perspectives of the psychology faculty and the law faculty as well and having classmates in both disciplines,” said Liane Bass, who is the senior administrator of NYLS’ online mental disability law program, which was launched in 2000 with one class.
The program has come a very long way since then. In the recent years, it expanded through partnerships at the other law schools in the U.S. and abroad.
”We offer more courses in mental disability than any other law school in the world. Most law schools offer zero or one — we offer 13,” said Professor Michael Perlin, who actually designed and teaches the program.
This program aims to train lawyers to represent a gamut of people with mental disabilities, like homeless persons, sexually violent predators and those committed to institutions. But the courses are not just aimed at future lawyers. This program is branched as an M.A., not an LL.M., in order to try and attract mental health professionals rather than just law students.
Domestic and international students include attorneys, psychologist, psychiatrists, forensic, other mental health professionals, human rights workers, activists, and advocates.
The course list includes Mental Health Issues in Jails and Prisons; Sex Offenders; Forensic Reports, the Role of Experts and Forensic Ethics; and Mental Disability and the Criminal Law.
This program is being shortened from five years to four because students can now essentially ”double dip” 12 of the credits, said Perlin.
A few of the classes are online, while the rest are an in-classroom format. Perlin is the one and only full-time professor, but between 15 and 20 adjuncts teach within the program. Teachers from all across the country teach its online course, giving Perlin ”the whole nation to choose from,” he said.
Each year, about twenty students will take the program and demand will be gauged from here.
Every state has their federally-funded disability rights office that must offer legal services to people with disabilities, and he said the combination degree would help grads fill some of their empty slots.
Perlin admits that popular crime TV shows have upped the allure of pursuing such degrees.
”CSI has sparked interest in forensic-everything programs,” said Perlin. ”It keeps it out there so people know about it. They know about it more than when I did in law school at Columbia.”