Megan Barrett studies criminal justice systems in Ireland and America through Magellan Project

Created: December 9, 2019
Last Updated: April 2, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 9, 2019) — Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) senior Megan Barrett ’20 combined her interests in mental health and criminal justice for a truly memorable Magellan Project.

Megan spent four weeks in Ireland completing her project “The Criminal Justice System in Ireland v. America.” With a court system organized similarly to that in the U.S., Megan wanted to investigate the innerworkings of the Irish judicial systems and compare their successes and pitfalls.

She traveled to five cities, visiting jails (referred to as “gaols” in Ireland), courthouses and more. In the Cork City Gaol, Megan learned that people now get married in the former inner-city jail.

While sitting in on sentencing hearings in a Dublin courthouse, she observed that the mental health state of individuals on trial was taken into consideration during the sentencing process.

At one sentencing she sat it on involving juveniles, she also noted a major difference from court culture in many United States courtrooms: media officials were banned from entering the room. The move helped preserve the integrity of the case, she observed.

“This particular case led officials to reconsider the usage of media covering ongoing cases, and its ramifications that can cause the spreading of information, and potentially affect people’s perceptions,” she said. “Throughout this case, information about the involved individuals and the case itself were not disclosed on any media platform to prevent the spreading of misinformation. This caused a big conversation throughout the country about if all cases should not be displayed in the media.”

Megan’s classes at W&J helped her prepare for her project.

“Professor (of Psychology Cathy) Petchel’s Criminal Psychopathology class provided a lot of background information for some of the relevant issues of my research, such as mental health in criminal situations and offender patterns and typologies,” she said.

Megan also is currently enrolled in Dr. Miller’s Criminology course and she noted a lot of the issues she learned about in Ireland are also discussed in the class.

Megan is a Psychology major at W&J with a minor in Forensic Science. After she graduates next spring, Megan hopes to work in the prison system in a rehabilitation program.

Learn more about Megan’s research through her Magellan Project blog.

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