Published on November 19th, 2012 | by Rachel Stella
VIDEO: Criminal/Social Justice Majors Prepare for Successful Careers
Rachel Stella, Copy Editor
Lauren Pirc, Editor-in-Chief
As part of the Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies Department, the Criminal/Social Justice program is one of the most well-represented majors at Lewis.
Students in this major typically look for jobs as police officers, private investigators, criminologists or other security-related occupations.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook says that employment for police and detectives is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than average, but openings will be more available at the local level.
Sophomore criminal/social justice major Enrique Larios sees a problem with gang and drug activity in many neighborhoods.
“I feel like these communities lack a lot of positive role models,” Larios said. “These gangs — they bring in a lot of drugs, which fuel the cycle that … these teenagers and kids only see. I just want to help out the community and show that there is a chance to be something other than a gang-banger or a drug dealer.”
Larios wants to work as a federal agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Administration. He’s also considering a job in politics, like an alderman or congressman.
“I just enrolled in ROTC. It’s teaching me how to be a leader,” Larios said. “I want to become a leader one day of a federal agency … I don’t just wanna be the guy knocking down your door; I want to be more of the guy that’s changing policies and making more proactive programs for these communities.”
Senior criminal/social justice major Matt Dutton is a student worker with the Lewis police. For him, the concept of justice is central to his career.
“For me, personally, I think one of the greatest things I can do with my life and my career is serving the community, protecting the community and just seeking out that idea of justice,” Dutton said. “I’m out there trying to prevent crime, actively deter crime, and when crime does happen, I’m there to make sure that whoever committed that crime is treated justly, and that whoever the victim of that crime is is treated justly.”
Dutton believes that the police officer’s function of serving and protecting isn’t as appreciated in society as it should be.
“It’s certainly true that there have been police officers out there who have made mistakes, or done things that are unethical or even illegal,” Dutton said. “We shouldn’t judge a group on one person’s actions. Police officers are out there protecting you — they’re doing their job. Yeah, you might get frustrated if they pull you over for speeding; well, maybe you shouldn’t have been speeding in the first place.”
Dutton enjoys working with the police officers on campus.
“I’ve gotten to know the officers pretty well,” Dutton said. “Personally, I think any student would be able to go up and have a conversation with them and get to know them. Every single one of them definitely has that mentality of doing whatever it takes to protect and serve the Lewis community, so they’re all very goal-oriented and focused.”
Senior criminal/social justice major Hector Jimenez sees theft as a major problem in his Chicago neighborhood.
“Best thing to do is try to eliminate gangs off the streets,” Jimenez said. “It would lead to a better community. The neighborhood could at least grow more and be happier as a result.”
Jimenez believes that leadership, confidence and communication are three key skills that majors should develop while they in school. He found the Department of Communications’ minor program of Communication Studies for Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies majors has helped him improve his people skills.
“I saw that police officers and probation officers usually deal with people on a daily basis with their problems; they try to come up with solutions,” Jimenez said. “I want to create solutions and talk with people on my own. That’s why I chose the communication minor — to deal with them more effectively.”
Dr. Keith Killacky is an assistant professor of criminal/social justice in the JLPSS department. He has worked for the FBI and has always felt a call to serve the community.
Killacky strongly recommends internships to criminal/social justice students who want to succeed professionally. He said that connections alone won’t provide the dream job, but they’ll show students the path to the job. He also thinks students should have professional mentors both on and off campus.
“Get not only a faculty mentor, but get an outside mentor,” Killacky said. “You need someone, really, to kindle that desire to keep in policing. Come to our job fair in April, and come to our career day fair panel in March.”
Killacky said that students should join Fellowship of Justice, an on-campus, student-led organization for majors in the JLPSS department. He advised students to be willing to look for work in smaller towns where jobs are more available.
Students who study criminal/social justice see their careers as more than mere jobs.
“It’s a great major,” Jimenez said. “I wanted to do something that was not a regular, 9-to-5 job. I want to do something that could make a difference.”