The incarceration of more than 2 million Americans influences government, law, economies, family and community structures, and brings to the forefront feelings about fairness, equality, race, class and gender. One can really only evaluate those systems, and the structures of power that are in place when there is a clear understanding of all the forces at play.

The primary goal of this course is to think hard about the American legal system and its role in society, to look at its strengths as well as its possible failures or shortcomings through a psychological lens. The program will look at various aspects of the legal system in which psychology is (or should be) relevant or important. Including, for example, the competence of a criminal defendant to stand trial, the relevance and importance of expert psychological testimony, and the ways that jurors and judges make decisions. This program will also cover the in-depth exploration of issues surrounding punishment, incarceration, and the death penalty.

It is impossible to talk about these issues in America today without acknowledging the social context, this program will discuss issues relating to race and ethnicity, class, constructions of gender, discrimination and prejudice, power and privilege, and the media. There will be discussions about the way these influences, shape, or form our understanding of psychology, the legal system, and the world.


Why study this program in San Francisco?


**This program is still under development and details are subject to final change**

The following structure is TBC.

Week 1:

● The legal system

● Psychology of crime

● Psychology of police

● Eyewitnesses

Week 2:

● Criminal suspects and constitutional rights

● Criminal trials and alternatives

● Assessment in criminal and civil cases

● Preparing for trials

Week 3:

● Jurors and juries

● Psychology and victims

● Discrimination in the legal system

● Punishment and sentencing

● Prisons, incarceration and the death penalty

● Psychology, Law, and the real world

This course will be comprised of lectures, large group discussions, and interactive activities.

San Francisco State University

Located in one of the world’s most beautiful and culturally diverse cities, San Francisco State University is a public university with approximately 30,000 students. SF State awards bachelor's degrees in 126 fields, master's in 103, and a doctorate in educational leadership. The university’s top three majors are Business Administration, Engineering, and Computer Science. SF State is also a leader in community service learning and international education. SF State faculty and students work closely with local government, business, and educational partners to advance the development of the university and the local area.


The Faculty

Amy E. Smith is an associate professor of Psychology at SF State. She received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1998 and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from University of California at Santa Cruz in 2004. Dr. Smith specialises in Legal Pscyhology and in particular the areas where law and psychology intersect around issues of social justice. Her activism and research integrate her academic and professional experience and are focused on topics related to the death penalty, the effects of incarceration, and successful reintegration of individuals after release from prison.

The program will include several cultural and professional development activities in San Francisco to complement the classroom instruction. These are still to be confirmed.

Site visits (TBC):

Students can expect to partake in professional site visits designed to provide a unique insight into the program content. Specific visit information will be available closer to the program date.

Cultural Activities may include: 

  • Bay Cruise: The San Francisco bay cruise is a quintessential San Francisco experiences. Students will see incredible views of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. They'll also enjoy dining and shopping at Pier 39 before and after the cruise.

San Francisco is a dynamic city with a wide array of cultural activities. Participants will be provided with a list of additional optional activities so they can explore their own interests in their free time. Students will have an unlimited transportation card and most activities are easily accessible by public transit.

(TBC) Participants will be housed in double rooms at local private residence club. They offer cleaning service Monday through Friday, with fresh linens exchanged on a weekly basis and new towels provided twice a week. Coin-operated laundromat are located in the hotel for the convenience.

Clubs are located in the prestigious Pacific Heights area, one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in San Francisco. Public transportation is easily accessible and can take students to any part of the city. They are located blocks away from the cable car line and 10 minute from the downtown financial district and the popular Fisherman's Wharf.

Each room is furnished with a dresser, closet, desk, chair, fridge, TV and phone. There is also a dining area and common entertaining areas in facilities.



A crimson bridge, cable cars, a sparkling bay, and streets lined with elegant Victorian homes – San Francisco is undeniably one of the world’s great cities. Located along the Northern California at the state’s distinctive bend in the coast, the region has an alluring magic that stretches beyond the bay to diverse cities with nightlife and trend-setting cuisine.

Interesting Facts About San Francisco

  • During the Great Depression, not a single bank in San Francisco failed. In fact, business was so good that the city constructed the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge during the Depression.

  • James Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, which created waves of immigrants coming into the city to seek fortune. These immigrants included a large number of Chinese immigrants, forming one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia.

  • The Gold Rush resulted in San Francisco’s port becoming packed with abandoned ships. With demand to build the city up, the ships were torn apart and repurposed for homes, banks, and businesses.

  • In 1906, three quarters of the city was destroyed by an earthquake and fire. The earthquake was the first natural disaster to be documented in photographs. The resulting fire burned for four days, and caused more than $8 billion in damage in today’s dollars.

  • Levi Strauss invented denim jeans in San Francisco for the Gold Rush miners who needed durable yet comfortable clothing


All our programs are designed to count for credit as electives. However, it is up to your university to decide whether they will approve some credit for your participation in one of our programs. Normally it is a course convenor, Head of Department or program convenor who approves your credit.

Your course convenors will not be able to approve credit for a course unless you have a copy of the syllabus so you should not visit your course convenor until you have received a copy of the course syllabus from AIM Overseas. You will receive the syllabus upon being assessed as eligible for the program.

For more information, see our Credit and Funding pages.


You might be able to obtain the $6000+ OS-HELP loan, as well as a scholarship from your university, when participating in an AIM Overseas program.

Our programs are designed so that eligible Australian students can access the OS-HELP scheme, which can provide funding of over $6,000 for international study experiences.

We give you detailed information about OS-HELP and how to apply for it in your Initial Consultation with us, which we further outline in an email following your Initial Consultation.

You can also find more information about OS-HELP on our Credit and Funding pages.

Many Australian universities offer scholarships for their students to take part in overseas study programs. We will provide you information on scholarships that we are aware of at your university as part of your application/acceptance for a program. You can also check your university’s international office webpage to see what might be offered.

Applications for this program will open on April 29th 2019. In the meantime, you can REGISTER YOUR INTEREST, meaning you’ll receive more program info and updates. You’ll also be notified when applications are open so you can be the first to apply!

To give you an idea in advance, here is the steps of the application process:  

1. Apply online (when applications are open).

2. You’ll be prompted to send us a copy of your full academic results from your studies at university so far after submitting your application.

3. We’ll review your university results and application and, if you are eligible for the program, we will invite you to book an initial consultation by phone with one of our Student Experience Coordinators. You will also be sent the course syllabus with more program info.

4. You’ll pay our $55 application fee and book in your phone consultation at a suitable, available time with a Student Experience Coordinator. 

5. The phone consultation lasts about 20-30 minutes and we’ll cover detailed information with you about credit, funding, the program, your application and what happens next.

6. After your consultation we’ll send you a follow-up email with instructions on what to do next, an invitation to join a program specific Facebook group to connect with other students applying for the program and a process document, which we have developed in conjunction with your Australian university, to guide you on how to apply for credit and funding.

7. Once you’ve completed the next steps in that follow-up email we’ll do a final review of your application. If all is in order, you’ll be accepted onto the program.

8. Upon acceptance, you will receive three emails containing your AIM Acceptance letter, steps for applying for credit and funding at your Australian University, as well as your downpayment invoice. Note: Your downpayment is due in two weeks from the date of your acceptance and secures your place on the program.

9. Once you’ve paid your downpayment, your application will be sent to the host university for them to process and review and they’ll send us your final official host university acceptance letter which we will send to you.

10. Pay your full program fee by the final due date (TBD). The full program fee will be due (as shown on the website) minus the downpayment and application fee already paid.

Programs are usually over-subscribed, so it is really important that you take care of things as quickly as possible. We’re here to help and will provide you with information and reminders about what you need to do at various stages.

For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions. Alternatively, you are welcome to submit an enquiry or register your interest. Registering your interest means you’ll receive updates (via email and phone) prior to the application deadline.