Beto Criminal Justice Center

Beto Criminal Justice Center
816 17th Street
Map | News | ID#: 0046

Timeline

1971 Construction begins
1976 Construction completed
Feb. 25, 1977 Dedication
Apr. 1977 Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom dedicated
Oct. 1986 George G. Killinger Auditorium dedicated
Apr. 19, 1990 Sundial memorial dedicated
Feb. 8, 1992 Renamed for Beto

Namesake

George J. Beto

Architect

George L. Dahl

Contractor(s)

Texas Department of Corrections inmate labour

Links

College of Criminal Justice
Beto Criminal Justice Center

An aerial view looking south at the intersection of Avenue I and 17th Street from 1957. To the west stands Sorority Hill. Note the white building just south of the small houses.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

An aerial from the mid-1970s of the construction of the Criminal Justice Center and Hotel.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

A view looking south of the newly-constructed Criminal Justice Center and Hotel. Remember that white house from the 1950s (above)? It's still standing two decades later.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

Governor Dolph Briscoe and his wife, Janey, unveiled the plaque for the dedication of the Criminal Justice Center, as shown in this 1978 Alcalde photo.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

A photograph of the Institute of Contemporary Corrections and the Behavioral Sciences faculty as shown in the 1979 Alcalde; included here to show the signage of the building prior to receiving its honorific name. George Beto stands at the extreme left in the photo.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

Colour photograph time. A 2007 view looking into the courtyard surrounded by the Hotel (left), LEMIT Building (right) and CJ Center.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

A tree growing in the yard surrounded by the CJ Center (left), LEMIT Building (right) and Hotel - where this photo was taken.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

For decades 17th Street was blocked halfway between Avenues H and I, about right in front of the CJ Center entrance. The road would be open for traffic once the Performing Arts Center was opened across the street in 2010.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

A landscaped planter box south of the main entrance contains a sundial dedicated to serve as "a memorial in honor of the alumni of the Criminal Justice Center who serve the cause of justice throughout the world and in memory of those who have perished in this service."


Beto Criminal Justice Center

The Latin on the sundial - Ius est ars boni et aequi - translates as "Law is the art of the good and the equitable." A Commemoration Ceremony is held each April.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

Graffiti outside the southwest corner of the building. We've no clue what it means, either.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

The plaque Briscoe unveiled is now featured prominently in the front lobby of the building. It's probably one of the few plaques to feature a Bible verse: "Seek the peace of the city..." (Jeremiah 29:7).


Beto Criminal Justice Center

A photograph shows a picture of the CJ Center's construction. The inmate stands on what will become the balcony at the rear of the entry foyer looking down into the "horse shoe" - the circular courtyard and parking lot on the building's northern side.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

Dr. Charles Friel wrote a brief biography of Terry, one of the laborers that had a hand in construction of the CJ Center. A native of northeast Texas and one of nine children, his troubles with the law began in his 20's with drugs and traffic violations - 16 arrests by age 35. In 1975 he was sentenced to six years for theft in the Texas Department of Corrections.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

The Friel Conference Room contains a treasure trove of history, notably a small tribute in the form of a photograph and a brick from the Woods Building, the original location of what became the College of Criminal Justice, and the CJ Center Time Capsule.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

Ben Pruitt, a wood working instructor at the Windham Unit, built the time capsule from Honduran mahogany. The sculpture was completed by Charles Pebworth of the SHSU Art Department using varied materials including aluminum, copper, brass, silver, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, agate from India, bone from Rhode Island, and petrified wood from Huntsville.


Beto Criminal Justice Center

A view looking east at the CJ Center's western entrance along Avenue I.


Sources

College of Criminal Justice
The Beto Criminal Justice Center is located at the northeastern corner of campus. It is the flagship building of the College of Criminal Justice, flanked by the University Hotel and Blackwood LEMIT building.

The Criminal Justice program's roots go back to the mid-1960s and a joint venture between the university and Texas Department of Corrections. Originally the Institute of Contemporary Corrections and Behavioral Sciences, courses were part of the Sociology Department and held in the Woods Building.

Construction began in the early 1970s on a new four-story, 197,000 square-foot building containing classrooms, offices, a 500-seat auditorium, and courtroom. Funded by the federal government, the center was built entirely by inmate labor, severely reducing the cost of construction. A display in the building honors the inmates who helped with construction, noting the irony of the convicted felons building a facility to prepare future generation for careers in law enforcement. The cap of one such inmate, Terry, is included in the display. Friel writes that Terry was one of the last inmates to work at building the center and probably "inadvertently forget his cap at the end of a long day, which I found in one of the classrooms the day the center opened." Terry was paroled in 1978 after serving three years.

Shortly after opening, State of Texas v. Nicol became the first criminal case tried in the building's courtroom. Two years later the courtroom - which has been used for numerous seminars, programs, and trials over the years - was renamed in honor of Hazel Kerper. The building's 400+-seat auditorium was renamed in honor of founding director, George Killinger, in 1986.

The sundial located outside the southern entrance was dedicated in 1990, the 25th anniversary of Criminal Justice classes at SHSU, to honor criminal justice alumni and other law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. The Commemoration, or Sundial, Ceremony is held each April.

The CJ Center is home to a number of research institutes, including:

  • Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas (1987)
  • Police Research Center (PRC) (1993)
  • Correctional Management Institute of Texas (1994)
  • Crime Victims' Institute (CVI) (1995)
  • Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG) (2003)
  • Institute for Legal Studies in Criminal Justice (ILSCJ) (Oct. 2006)

The Criminal Justice time capsule was created to celebrate the program's first quarter century (1965-1990). Memorabilia was placed in the time capsule on Criminal Justice Commemoration Day, April 26, 1991. The capsule is due to be opened in 2015, whereupon the materials will be reviewed and then be placed back into the time capsule along with materials covering the second quarter century (1990-2015).

In 2013 the Texas Department of Criminal Justice donated 78 acres of land to SHSU along Highway 75 north of campus. Initial plans for Innovation Plaza are to build a criminal justice complex with structures for the Blackwood Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, and a training facility for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.


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