|The Correlation Between Education and an Effective 21st Century Criminal Justice System|
|By A. Allen-Jones, MPA - PHD Candiate in Organizational Leadership|
Gone are the days when society looked on murder as shocking , prisons being aligned with inmates who could be easily categorized, and officers who were characterized as a step up from hall school monitors; the system has greatly changed. Over the past ten years “Evidence Based Practices” (EBP) , “Restorative Justice” and other well-intended theories have been projected into the criminal justice system with promises of recovery and change. Scholars and system advocates have bravely donned the jacket of hope and profess that these new programs will truly make a difference within the system. With all their good intentions the initiative for changes continuously falls short , largely in part of the systems failure to address changes needed in the overall educational requirements of criminal justice professionals.
Many criminal justice agencies have moved their recruitment practices from basic high school diploma applicants to preferring candidates with at least an associate degree , yet there remains an under expectation among the field. The design and implementation of programs such as EBP beckons to go beyond basic knowledge of crime and its offenders. There is nothing that suggests that criminal justice professionals can not perform their duties unless that have a four year degree in hand , however the majority of critics and advocates for change in the system agree that the current practices are ineffective. Time and time again new programs are thrust into the system directly affecting frontline officers and relying on most to “catch on” to theories. Many officers find the new programs confusing and more so, fail to buy into the change, essentially setting up an automatic failing of even the most promising of programs.
How can increasing the educational requirements for criminal justice professionals change the system? While there are no guarantees , staffing the system with individuals who are prepared to practice current rehabilitative and momentum applications would fare better than the current practice of throwing a program into the system and hoping it works. Educational institutions must ensure that there are direct correlations between today’s criminal justice theories, and deter from feeding students with the age-old approaches that simply will do no more than put old wine in a new skin, essentially bringing no change into the system. Criminal justice programs must not only rely on educating students about historical components of the system , but must prepare students to utilize programs and practices of the 21st century and beyond.
Community Colleges are one of the most overlooked avenues of promoting change within an organization. They offer affordable and increasingly updated programs that can catapult students into becoming modern day leaders in the filed. However it is essential to understand that community colleges serve as the beginning of the educational journey for criminal justice professionals, and obtaining four year degrees should be ideal goal.
Officers who enter system, aware of and prepared to implement updated practice programs often find their job frustrating due to a division of those still wandering among age-old practices, and refusing to move into programs sprung from the realities of today’s crimes. There is nothing prohibiting the criminal justice system to put forth effort in advocating for even the most veteran of officers to obtain an advanced degree. By generating greater importance toward educating all criminal justice system players, officers entering the system with change in hand may be more effective and less disgruntled.
The simple truth is a lining our criminal justice system in the same manner we did twenty years ago just isn‘t working. By no accounts is there any intent to belittle or dismiss the contribution that veteran officers make each day to preserve the safety and security of society. The continuation to settle for less among the field simply pushes greater obstacles into the future. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop and take a really good look at what’s not working. Tough decisions for tough times.
Bottom line, the criminal justice system manner of staffing and recruitment needs revamping. Administrators who are not equipped to lead need to be either replaced or required to obtain further educational training. Officers who have direct contact with offenders must be equipped to apply the updated standards and execute the new practices to their full extend. Unfortunately society is riddled with a mass amount of new and undiscovered criminal actions, and just like hundreds of years ago the responsibility of working to maintain an effective system to deal with the crimes of society resides with the government and it’s commitment to preserving a safe and secure society.
Corrections.com author, A Allen-Jones, holds a Master’s in Administration and Organizational Leadership, and is currently pursuing her PHD in Organizational Leadership. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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