Kurt V. Jose, MSc Candidate, Centre for Criminology
Today’s graduates, in the field of Criminology and Criminal Justice, often ponder over numerous questions. Where will my degree take me? Is this the right path for me? What other qualifications do I need to stand out? Can I be a cast member on CSI? On a more serious note, taking up a career in Criminal Justice opens many doorways in the public and private sector. On May 23, the Centre for Criminology held a panel on Criminal Justice Careers. Ian Loader and Ben Bradford chaired the panel consisting of speakers from various governmental organisations, displaying the wide array of careers graduates can enter into.
The speakers included: Jon Collins, CEO of the Restorative Council, Amrik Panaser, County Manager of the Oxford Youth Offending Service, Betsy Stanko, Head of Evidence and Insight at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, London, Rachel Taylor, a Solicitor at Fisher Meredith, and Michael Bochenek, Senior Director of International Law and Policy at Amnesty International.
Rachel Taylor and Jon Collins discussed their interests as undergraduates. It was intriguing to hear their contrasting views on how their interests fueled their current careers. Rachel Taylor, upon completing her MA in Jurisprudence at Oxford, knew she wanted to be an advocate. Her time as a Paralegal at the Independent Jamaican Council for Human Rights gave her valuable real-life experience, which she attributed to her success as a solicitor advocate. She saw the law as a way of implementing change. She currently takes on this proactive role as a member of Stop Watch, which challenges the abuse of ‘stop and search’powers in the United Kingdom. In contrast to having a set career path, Jon Collins was undecided on what to do until he completed his masters at LSE. He completed his degree in Criminal Justice Policy. It was from that point on that he knew where his interests and career goals would merge. He began his career at NACRO, a crime reduction charity aimed at reducing reoffending in communities across England and Wales. He said that acquiring new skills and assuming different roles allowed him to have success and excel in his career. As CEO of the Restorative Justice Council, he explained how he has taken on different roles. He assumes multiple roles as a public figure and a manager. He said he must represent the organisation as well as strategically expand the growth of restorative practices in the criminal justice system. Jon Collins attributes his success to his adaptability, going beyond what his functional role entails and covering different aspects of it.
Amrik Panaser, the County Manager of the Oxford Youth Offending Service introduced his work by asking “What is youth offending?”; a question that is crucial for his work at the Youth Offending Service.His presentation dealt with the challenges of youth offending and how the next generation of professionals and academics in the field can address this pressing issue. He asked if we could hold youths accountable for their mishaps, when their brains have not fully developed until twenty-five years of age? He then talked about disproportionate punishments depending on social class and environment. He cited an example of damaging a restaurant as a member of a fraternity compared to a youth damaging a McDonalds. The resulting punishments would differ from the fraternity member being disciplined to the youth at McDonalds being prosecuted in the youth offender service for being a danger to the public. Finally, he said youth offending is decreasing but new questions are being raised due to the increased usage of the Internet. He asked, Are youths vulnerable online? Is there anonymous offending?
To close the second half of the panel was Professor Betsy Stanko, the Head of Evidence and Insight at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, London and Michael Bochenek, Senior Director of International Law and Policy for Amnesty International. As seasoned veterans in their respective positions, they brought insight as to how each organisation differs from the governmental and non-governmental perspective. Betsy Stanko spoke of her ‘academic meets activist knowledge’approach in regards to improving policing in the Mayor’s Office. By utilizing ‘evidence based’analysis, it allows the Met to gather routinely collected information in order to analyse the intelligence. She discussed how the social sciences have a profound effect on how policymakers devise effective solutions. She emphasised that academics must be able to communicate their ideas in a manner that would be conducive to the language of policymakers, which can lead to more improvements. Michael Bochenek discussed how his research experience at the Human Right’s Watch Children’s Rights Division led to his current position as a Senior Director at Amnesty International. He discussed how being part of a nongovernmental organisation leads to him lobbying government officials. He highlighted the disconnection between public policy framework and implementation. For instance, in New York, public health officials mandated the distribution of condoms to sex workers to prevent HIV and AIDS. However, police officers confiscate the condoms from sex workers and use it as evidence to prosecute sex workers. He pointed out that this disconnection has the potential to violate our rights and does not consider the consequences.
During the Q&A, the panelists advised students about respective careers. They echoed that education – though crucial - is not enough. Real-life experience is pivotal in today’s job market and it benefits candidates to learn more about the fields they intend to enter. Michael Bochenek concluded that specialising in certain skills and areas makes candidates more competitive on the job market outside the academy.