A corrections and juvenile justice studies bachelor’s degree prepares graduates for many careers. Of course, there are jobs within the field that do not require a bachelor’s degree, but options are limited. Opportunities for promotion and moving into administrative positions will require a degree.
Career Options for Graduates
Many EKU graduates are working in the juvenile justice system as probation officers in the community, or as youth workers or counselors in detention centers or other residential settings. Some are working in family resource centers within public schools and other youth services facilities. Graduates are also working in the community as adult probation and parole officers, drug court case managers, and victim advocates. Others work in institutional settings as correctional officers, intake and assessment officers, and case managers.
Closer Look: Adult Probation Officer
I was a probation officer early in my career and that is when I developed a passion for the field. As an adult probation officer, I had two primary duties. Conducting investigations on people who had been convicted of a crime and provided the judge with a summary of my findings and a recommendation for sentencing. I also supervised a caseload of people sentenced to probation. I monitored their compliance with conditions of probation and provided them with social services and other resources that addressed factors associated with their criminal behavior. For example, many of the people I supervised had drug and alcohol problems, so I would refer them to local agencies for drug treatment.
Misconceptions about Adults in the Criminal Justice System
There are a lot of misconceptions about adults involved in the criminal justice system. There is the tendency to assume that convicted felons are a distinct group of people with evil intentions who are incapable of change. This perception stokes public fears and contributes to harsh, punitive policies. But the reality is that people commit crimes for a range of reasons and many of them aren’t that different from you and me.
One of my mentors put it like this – a small group of the people who commit a crime are just plain evil, another group are responding to dire economic and social circumstances, and the criminal behavior of the last group stems from a serious lapse in judgement. The last two groups are more likely to get probation and they typically respond well to treatment and other services designed to reduce their likelihood of engaging in future crime.
Prepare to Make a Difference and Help Others
Eastern Kentucky University’s corrections and juvenile justice studies program prepares students to make a difference in their community by examining critical components of the criminal justice system. One topic of discussion is mass incarceration in the U.S. and the shortsightedness of that approach.
The program looks at things such as the fact that, the U.S. makes up 5% of the world’s general population and 25% of the world’s imprisoned population. We question why that is and what it is about our culture that favors such a punitive approach to crime despite the exorbitant costs and the negligible impact it has on public safety. From there we segue into probation and parole as promising alternatives to imprisonment. We examine the role of probation and parole officers, the conditions of probation and parole, and evidence-based practices for promoting positive behavioral change.
In addition to examining the corrections and juvenile justice systems, EKU students learn from faculty who have both professional experience in corrections or juvenile justice and the academic credentials needed to provide a rich learning environment.
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About the Author
Betsy Matthews is an Associate Professor in EKU’s College of Justice, Safety and Military Science, and the program coordinator for the online Corrections and Juvenile Justice Studies program. She received her Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati and has a blend of practical and academic experience.
Betsy began her career as a childcare worker in a residential treatment facility for behaviorally disordered adolescents before moving into an adult probation officer position in Greene County, Ohio. She also served as a research associate on federally funded grant projects for the American Probation and Parole Association. Dr. Matthew’s research interests include community corrections, correctional rehabilitation, and women, crime, and criminal justice.