Experiencing Corrections: From Practitioner to Professor


Edited by: Lee Michael Johnson

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    This book is a collection of essays written by professors with practical experience in corrections. It was written to help bridge the gap between academia and practice. Its main purpose is to support teaching and learning activities that integrate vicarious and experiential learning in corrections. Few outlets are offered to social scientists desiring to publish scholarly works using their personal experiences. This is unfortunate given that personal employment experiences of scholars constitute a valuable resource for making concrete connections between academics and practice. Directly experiencing “each world” increases the scholar's ability to identify these connections. Creating this book served as an opportunity for professors to conduct scholarly analyses using personal experiences and to counter the impression that academic scholars are “out of touch” with the real world. It is offered to help readers develop their abilities to connect scholarship and practice and, by doing so, increase their power to improve practice and make corrections work more rewarding.

    Getting students to make meaningful connections between course work and “the real world” is important to most teachers, but finding materials that help students make these connections can be difficult. As most students understand, applying academics and practice to one another is a complicated task; the connections are often not readily apparent. Like other important abilities that students are expected to acquire, such as writing and data analysis skills, conceptualizing connections between academics and practice is an ability that teachers must develop in students. One method frequently used by instructors is drawing from past experiences to help explain lecture material, which is attractive because the concreteness and familiarity of personal examples make concepts clearer to students. This book employs the same general strategy but in a more involved and structured way; it gives readers written detailed descriptions that they can carefully analyze.

    This book is intended primarily for adoption in college level general corrections courses. Since the essays are narratives written in first person, the book is highly “readable”—comprehendible at all college levels. It is complementary to a number of corrections books, including most introductory texts. The book is useful for students in criminology and criminal justice and social work programs, especially those aspiring to work in a corrections field, along with current practitioners. Because authors demonstrate how to connect academics with practice, the book could also be used in internship, practicum, and some social work courses. Also, while the essays are elegantly written, they are the personal reflections of accomplished scholars and thus contain insights appropriate for advanced study. On the graduate level, the book would work well alone or with another book in courses on correctional treatment and counseling, professional applications, and special topics. Finally, the essays contain useful and citable information, such as anecdotal evidence, that may be of interest to other scholars and current practitioners.

    This book has unique features intended to make it an important contribution to criminal justice literature. Few books focus on the use of personal experience in studying and teaching corrections. This book reviews academic and practice knowledge garnered by individuals who have been correctional practitioners and are now academic scholars. The essays contain authors' valuable and insightful reflections on their efforts to achieve important objectives while they were employed in the field. Authors use their real world experiences to explain and illustrate theoretical and methodological concepts and to demonstrate approaches to practice. In retrospectively applying concepts and perspectives to corrections, the authors contribute significantly to the development of a marriage between academics and practice.

    While the essays are diverse with regard to topics, writing style, and specific organization, each author includes pertinent background information, an overview of the workplace, a narrative of experiences, and conclusions or implications based on the experiences. Spanning the three general types of correctional environments—incarceration, community corrections, and juvenile corrections—the collection of essays discusses working in prisons or prison systems, probation and parole, and juvenile residential and community corrections.

    Each essay tells an interesting and important story. The essays go beyond simple storytelling, however, as discussions of experiences are grounded in scholarship. At the same time, they keep academic and professional jargon to a minimum and avoid excessive citation. The essays are necessarily subjective, containing a great deal of advocacy and critique, but arguments are based on concrete experience and scholarly analysis. It is not the intention of this book as a whole to advocate any particular views or opinions, nor to dictate practice, but to use practical experience to illustrate concepts and demonstrate how to connect academics and practice. Additionally, although the authors are very frank and straightforward in narrating, evaluating, and con-textualizing their experiences, the book is intended to be optimistic. It is intended to help prepare future corrections workers by giving them a view into the many possible challenges in this type of work, not to make them pessimistic about working in corrections.

    This book's readability and “real life” analyses will help instructors generate student interest and involvement in their courses, helping those that find it difficult to see the practical relevance of academic knowledge. The essays put a “human face” on the study of corrections, without sacrificing learning quality (without “dummying down” material). They bring core corrections books to life by offering real life professional experiences and concept applications. Students may enjoy the book's personal touch and appreciate its relevance to their career interests. This book simultaneously serves two important instructional purposes that may often seem contradictory to students: disseminate academic knowledge and prepare them for the professional workforce.

    The book contains three special pedagogical features. First, each essay chapter begins with an Editor's Introduction written to prepare readers to learn from the essay. These introductions identify general points in each essay regarding the author's work, challenges faced, type of scholarship applied, and overall lesson. Second, each chapter, including the introduction and conclusion, ends with three discussion questions. These are designed to assist instructors in developing group discussions, assignments, and exams or quizzes and assist students with a study aid for digesting the material in the chapter. Third, each chapter, including the introduction and conclusion, also ends with author recommended related readings. These are intended to help students further explore the subjects of the essays, providing them with possible sources for papers and instructors with possible additional readings to assign.


    Let me begin by saying thanks to all of the contributors for making this book happen. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with you. I am thankful for the opportunity to gather your work into this volume, and I learned much from your essays. Next, thanks go to Jeff Ross, John Fuller, Michael Braswell, and Jerry Westby for their encouragement and much needed assistance in helping me develop a clear vision and viable proposal for the book. Also, thanks go to reviewers for providing constructive criticism and suggestions that led to significant improvements throughout the book. Finally, thanks go to Ellen M. Coenen, Esq., for her thoughtful and helpful reviews of my chapters.

  • About the Editor

    Lee Michael Johnson is an assistant professor of criminology at the University of West Georgia. He earned a PhD in Sociology from Iowa State University, and his background includes work with behavior-disordered and delinquent youth in residential treatment. His research and writing interests are in juvenile delinquency, victimology, and criminal justice policy and practice, and he has published articles in journals such as Youth and Society, Journal of Social Psychology, Czech Sociological Review, Southwest Journal of Criminal Justice, and the International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences. Dr. Johnson regularly teaches juvenile delinquency, victimology, family violence, race and crime, and research methods courses.

    About the Contributors

    Tiffiney Barfield-Cottledge is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of North Texas at Dallas. She received a BS degree in Criminal Justice and a MA and PhD from Prairie View A&M University. Dr. Barfield-Cottledge has worked in various positions in the criminal justice field, such as a state parole officer, child support officer, and researcher, and she has over 12 years' experience as a counselor. In 2003, she worked with the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) project researching drug use and abuse among recently arrested males in Harris County, Texas. Dr. Barfield-Cottledge is published in the Criminal Justice Review and has an upcoming article in the Encyclopedia of Race and Crime. She has presented various papers at regional and national conferences, and her current research interests involve juvenile justice and delinquency, female gangs and delinquency, criminological theory, juvenile sex offenders, drug use and abuse, and racial conflict. Dr. Barfield-Cottledge regularly teaches courses on judicial and legal issues, offender behavior, criminology, and juvenile delinquency.

    Kelly Cheeseman Dial is an associate professor of criminal justice at Messiah College. She received her PhD from Sam Houston State University. Her current research interests include female offenders, prison deviance, correctional officer stress and job satisfaction, institutional corrections, the death penalty, ethics, and sexually deviant behavior. Dr. Cheeseman Dial has published articles in journals such as the Journal of Criminal Justice, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, American Journal of Criminal Justice, and Deviant Behavior. She has also coau-thored a book on the death penalty.

    Robert J. Durän is an assistant professor of criminal justice at New Mexico State University. He received his PhD in Sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2006 with an emphasis in criminology and race. His research interests include gangs, aggressive law enforcement, border enforcement, and disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system. Articles can be found in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Latino Studies, and Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict, and World Order.

    John Randolph Fuller is a professor of criminology at the University of West Georgia where he has taught for over 28 years. He has experience in the criminal justice system as a probation and parole officer as well as a criminal justice planner. His research interests are in critical criminology, especially peacemaking criminology. He teaches a wide range of courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and maintains an active writing agenda. In addition to numerous articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and book reviews, Dr. Fuller has published five books. His most recent book is Criminal Justice: Mainstream and Cross Currents, second edition.

    Gennifer Furst is an assistant professor in the Sociology Department at William Paterson University of New Jersey. She holds a doctorate in Criminal Justice from City University of New York (CUNY) John Jay College/CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests include the use of animals in the criminal justice system, drug policy, and the death penalty. Her book, Animal Programs in Prison: A Comprehensive Assessment, features the first national survey of prison-based animal programs in the country.

    Lucien X. Lombardo started his career in criminal justice as a teacher in the Osborne School at Auburn Correctional Facility from 1969 to 1977, where he taught English and Spanish to students who lived in the maximum-security prison. Dr. Lombardo is a professor of sociology and criminal justice at Old Dominion University, where he has taught since 1977. He received his doctorate from the School of Criminal Justice, State University of New York, Albany in 1978. He also earned an MA in Criminal Justice in 1974, an MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969, and a BA in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Rochester in 1967. Dr. Lombardo has authored numerous articles and professional presentations in his areas of expertise. Lombardo received Choice Magazine's Outstanding Academic Books in Sociology Award for Guards Imprisoned: Correctional Officers at Work (1st and 2nd updated editions). He is coeditor of the second edition of Prison Violence in America and coeditor with Dr. Karen Polonko of a volume of the journal Global Bioethics: Children in aChanging World. Dr. Lombardo serves as a board member of End Physical Punishment of Children (EPOCH-USA) working to end corporal punishment of children and a Fellow of the Society for Values in Higher Education.

    Robert F. Meier is a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He was an intern at a federal prison in Kentucky as an undergraduate and a probation officer in Wisconsin for 3 years before getting his graduate degrees.

    Everette B. Penn is an associate professor of criminology and division chair of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He is the author of several books and articles on juvenile justice, crime prevention, and homeland security.

    David Polizzi is currently an assistant professor with the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Indiana State University and the editor of the e-publication the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology (http://jtpcrim.org). He is the contributing coeditor of Transforming Corrections: Humanistic Approaches in Corrections and Offender Treatment and Surviving Your Clinical Placement: Reflections, Suggestions and Unsolicited Advice. He has also published a variety of journal articles and book chapters related to offender psychotherapy, the social construction of crime and race, and restorative justice as well as the phenomenology of general strain theory and deviance. Prior to his current academic position, he worked for nearly 18 years in a variety of community mental health and penitentiary settings providing psychotherapeutic services to inmate and parole and probation clients as well as individuals diagnosed with a variety of co-occurring disorders. Dr. Polizzi is currently credentialed by the State of Indiana as a Licensed Clinical Addictions Counselor.

    Cassandra L. Reyes is an assistant professor of criminal justice at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her teaching and research interests include the relationship between animal cruelty and other forms of delinquency and criminality, juvenile delinquency and aggression, violence and victimology, and corrections. She has published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation and International Criminal Justice Review. Additionally, in March 2010, she published a book titled Of Fists and Fangs: An Exploration of the Degree to Which the Graduation Hypothesis Predicts Adolescent Delinquency and Aggression. Prior to starting her career in academia, she worked as a probation and parole officer-bilingual for approximately 10 years and briefly as a county correctional officer.

    Jeffrey Ian Ross, PhD, is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, College of Public Affairs, and a Fellow of the Center for International and Comparative Law at the University of Baltimore. He has researched, written, and lectured on national security, political violence, political crime, violent crime, corrections, and policing for over 2 decades. Ross's work has appeared in many academic journals and books, as well as popular outlets. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of 16 books including Behind Bars: Surviving Prison, Convict Criminology, Special Problems in Corrections, and Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison. Ross has performed consulting services for Westat, Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) program; U.S. Department of Defense; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ); the National Institute of Justice, USDOJ; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and Intel Science Talent Search. From 1995 to 1998, Ross was a Social Science Analyst with the National Institute of Justice, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2003, he was awarded the University of Baltimore's Distinguished Chair in Research Award. In 2005 and 2006, Ross was a member of the Prisoner Advocate Liaison Group for the Institute of Medicine (part of the National Academy of Sciences). Also, Dr. Ross worked nearly 4 years in a correctional institution. His website is http://www.jeffreyianross.com.

    Teresa F. Smith is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she experienced an internship at the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services in the summer of 2009. She was a correctional officer at the Nebraska Youth Services Facility in Omaha. She is presently an In Home Family Consultant at Boystown.

    Staci Strobl is an assistant professor in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the 2009 winner of the British Journal of Criminology's Radzinowicz Memorial Prize for her work on the criminalization of domestic workers in Bahrain. Her areas of specialization are women in policing in the Arabian Gulf, multiethnic policing in Eastern Europe, and comic book portrayals of crime in the United States. Earlier in her career, she worked as a U.S. Probation Officer and a crime journalist. Dr. Strobl completed her doctorate in Criminal Justice at the City University of New York's Graduate Center, received her MA in Criminal Justice at John Jay, and her BA in Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University.

    N. Prabha Unnithan completed his bachelor's and master's degrees in Criminology in India before receiving his PhD in Sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He then worked as a planning specialist for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction before returning to academe. He has been a sociology faculty member at Colorado State University in Fort Collins since 1987 and currently serves there as the director of the Center for the Study of Crime and Justice. His research and teaching focus on violence, corrections, policy analysis, and evaluation. He has coauthored three books, The Currents of Lethal Violence: An Integrated Model of Suicide and Homicide, Guns, Violence and Criminal Behavior: The Offender's Perspective, and Policing and Society: A Global Approach. Dr. Unnithan edited the Journal of Criminal Justice Education between 1999 and 2002 and currently edits the Social Science Journal.

    Eric J. Wodahl is an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Wyoming. He received his PhD from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justices at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Wodahl has over 8 years of professional experience in the corrections field working with both juvenile and adult offenders, including 4 years as an intensive supervision program agent. His research interests include alternatives to revocation for noncompliant offenders, prisoner reentry, and rural issues in the criminal justice field. Dr. Wodahl's research has appeared in numerous publications such as Crime and Delinquency, the Prison Journal, and Criminal Justice Policy Review.

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