Why JWU’s New Community Justice Minor Is a Major Step Forward

While the world has been held in a grip by the COVID-19 pandemic for much of the past two years, a troubling endemic here in the United States — one some may argue has been simmering unnoticed for much longer — has begun to overflow into mainstream awareness: how our criminal justice system has seemed to chronically fail the communities it pledges to serve.

Community Justice is designed to provide students with a broader understanding and perspective on different approaches to crime management outside of the traditional punitive measures.

Take for example victims of domestic violence. According to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, incidents of domestic violence increased 8.1% when communities were affected by pandemic-related lockdown orders. However, the same report noted that since many victims were confined to their homes, resources and people in their communities who would usually intervene were not accessible — a blatant example of how our community systems can fail when help is needed the most.

Layered into the country's growing awareness of injustice was news of the wrongful deaths of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Ahmaud Arbery and tragically many others, each incident shining a spotlight on just how glaring and widespread the cracks in our system are nationwide. As a nation, we began to ask whether or not we have the most effective criminal justice systems in place.

As the nation grapples with the ongoing debate over criminal justice and police reform, Johnson & Wales University is not only taking part in that conversation but also laying out the blueprints for the future, starting with the development of a Community Justice minor.

Paul Sylvestre, Ph.D., a JWU professor and department chair, recently explained exactly what the new Community Justice minor is and why he thinks more than just Criminal Justice students can benefit from it.

What is Community Justice?

"Community Justice is designed to provide students outside and within the Criminal Justice major with a broader understanding and perspective on different approaches to crime management strategies outside of the traditional punitive measures. The Community Justice minor and specialization presents students who are interested in being agents of social change with the opportunity to gain an understanding and appreciation into industry trends toward a more proactive rather than reactive approach to crime management.

Read More >>> JWU Advantage: Criminal Justice

Community Justice brings together various stakeholders such as the police, community, offender and victim to gain some understanding into some of the problems that may have been a catalyst for crime and engage in cooperative and collaborative efforts to address those concerns to control crime and improve public safety. In this process, punishment of the offender is secondary to addressing the needs of a community that is focused on restoring the losses that have been suffered because of the crime."

Who can minor in Community Justice?

"Students who are in any major at Johnson & Wales can choose to minor in Community Justice. Those students who are Criminal Justice majors have the option to select some of the courses in the Community Justice minor to meet their major elective requirements or they may choose to earn a Specialization in Community Justice by taking all five required classes in lieu of other Criminal Justice electives."

The Community Justice minor teaches students that a collaborative and cooperative relationship between the criminal justice system and the community is a viable option.

What do you learn through Community Justice?

"The Community Justice minor teaches students that a collaborative and cooperative relationship between the criminal justice system and the community is a viable option. It also shows them how an approach to crime management can be more effective at reducing crime by focusing on informal social control measures rather than the traditional formal punitive measures."

"This minor addresses the development of collaborative and cooperative partnerships between the police and the community designed to enhance informal social control that will inherently lead to the stabilization and hopefully decline in crime, primarily violent crime, thus making troubled communities more inhabitable and safer places to live."

How does the Community Justice minor complement what is already being taught to Criminal Justice students?

"The Community Justice minor provides students who are interested in the field of criminal justice, but not a career in law enforcement, with some insight into possible career opportunities with agencies/organizations that work collaboratively with community members and leaders, as well as members of the criminal justice system to avert crime trends within particular neighborhoods."

"The minor provides students with some understanding of how the criminal justice system and law enforcement is transitioning to a focus on a cooperative and collaborative partnership with the communities impacted by crime in order to devise and implement effective informal crime management strategies."

Why was the Community Justice minor created?

"The minor was developed as a means to address growing student interest in issues such as victimology, restorative justice and mediation within the field of criminal justice. The minor was also developed in order to ensure that our students are provided with an understanding of industry trends within the field of criminal justice so that they would have a greater appreciation for the breadth and scope of career opportunities available to them."

"It was also developed to provide current and potential students with the knowledge and understanding that we are truly a holistic Criminal Justice program that provides students with the knowledge base and understanding to enter the broad range of careers."

Why is Community Justice important?

"Providing our students with an understanding of the full scope and breadth of the field of criminal justice is very important. It gives many of our current and potential students an understanding of how they can be agents of social change outside the parameters of a career in law enforcement. It also allows our students to understand how various agencies can come together in a collaborative and cooperative way to address crime management issues within a community."

"This minor provides our students with a greater understanding of career options that are available to them within the field of criminal justice. Students are made aware of the trends and movement within the criminal justice industry toward non-punitive sanctions designed to address crime management issues within a community."

What is the future of Community Justice?

"The faculty within the Criminal Justice program at Johnson & Wales University are constantly striving to ensure that our students gain a holistic understanding of the field of criminal justice which includes insights into the evolving and changing trends within the industry. The movement toward a restorative justice approach to crime management is directly connected to the growing incarceration rates that puts a strain on our correctional system. In an effort to address this concern, communities are moving toward a nonpunitive informal approach to crime management, such as the efforts and ideology associated with community justice. It is important that students who will be entering into the criminal justice system in an array of careers within the public, private and nonprofit sectors are aware of these developing trends toward informal programs and sanctions to address crime management."

Interested in learning more about studying Community Justice at JWU?
Explore the minor within the framework of our Criminal Justice program.

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