John Jay Leads the Way in $4.75M ‘Community Trust & Justice’ Project

John Jay College will lead a multi-institution partnership that includes Yale Law School, UCLA and the Urban Institute in a three-year, $4.75-million project to launch a National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice.

The federally funded initiative, announced Sept. 18 by Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, D.C., is designed to improve relationships between racial and ethnic minority communities and the police and other arms of the criminal justice system, and advance the scholarly understanding of, and the public conversation on those issues. 

Making reference to recent racially-charged events in Ferguson, Mo., Holder said: “As law enforcement leaders, each of us has an essential obligation — and a unique opportunity — to ensure fairness, eliminate bias, and build community engagement.” The initiative, Holder said, “represents a major step forward in resolving longstanding tensions in many of America’s communities and. . .will allow us to build on the pioneering work that the Justice Department and our law enforcement partners across the country are already doing to strengthen some of our nation’s most challenged areas.”

“This is one of the most ambitious and important steps the federal government has taken during my career in criminal justice,” said John Jay President Jeremy Travis, who attended the Justice Department event along with Professor David Kennedy, Director of the Center on Crime Prevention and Control. “Addressing the broken relationships between the police and communities of color across the nation is a fundamental challenge facing our democracy. We’re honored that the U.S. Department of Justice has asked John Jay and our colleagues to do this work, and tremendously excited about what that work could mean for the country.”

The initiative will be directed by Kennedy as part of John Jay’s National Network for Safe Communities, which works in troubled communities nationally and has been a leader in developing and promoting innovative practice in racial reconciliation. Joining him will be Professors Tracey Meares and Tom Tyler of Yale Law School, Professor Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA, and Drs. Nancy La Vigne and Jocelyn Fontaine of the Urban Institute, who will provide research and implementation support.

“This is the right team at the right time,” said Kennedy. “Our experience in city after city has shown us that both law enforcement and communities are far more ready for change than people think, Ferguson has galvanized the nation on this issue, and DoJ’s National Initiative will greatly enhance and accelerate that process.”
The National Initiative will highlight three areas that hold great promise for concrete, rapid progress:

The National Initiative will combine existing and newly developed interventions in five pilot cities, which will be selected in the coming months; develop and implement interventions for victims of domestic violence and other crimes, youth, and the LGBQTI community; conduct research and evaluations, and develop a national clearinghouse for related information and publications.

A Hometown Hero’s Welcome for Justice Sotomayor

The Convocation on Sept. 17 that officially welcomed the entering Class of 2014 to John Jay included a historic visit to the College by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Bronx native who was hailed as a true hometown hero by an enthusiastic capacity crowd in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater.

“It is my honor and pleasure to officially welcome you into the John Jay family,” President Jeremy Travis said to the newest students and Justice Sotomayor. He then formally presented the Justice to the assembly and awarded her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree — only the second Supreme Court Justice to be so honored.

“I am honored to be part of your class,” Justice Sotomayor said, “the first entering class in the second half century of John Jay’s existence.” She praised the College as “a jewel in the crown of the City University system,” and its mission of “educating students in the love of justice.”

Justice Sotomayor, a Princeton- and Yale-educated former prosecutor, litigator and federal judge, went on to offer what she called a “recipe for success” in college: spend every day here creating memories; learn new things and then share them, and devote part of each day to doing something nice for someone.

“Learning how to think is a key ingredient in doing anything in the future,” she said. The Justice went on to urge students to find their passion for life in school. “Don’t specialize too early,” she said. “Take courses in as many different things as you can. Take courses just because you know nothing about that area.

“Squeeze every moment from this experience,” she concluded. “Have fun in discovery, and challenge yourself.”
The students, who were presented with special-edition Convocation pins to seal their membership in the John Jay community, signaled their appreciation of Justice Sotomayor with a lengthy standing ovation before she headed to an exclusive meet-and-greet in the Moot Court room.

Quite obviously reveling in the intimate setting with some 60 lucky students, the Justice fielded question after question, and posed for countless photos. The pre-screened questions covered a wide range of thought-provoking topics, including:

How do you stay grounded amid all of your professional accolades?

What question do you ask yourself before rendering a decision?

What accomplishment has meant the most, other than your appointment to the Court?

Why is there such a dearth of Hispanics in high-ranking government positions?

What lessons would you impart to a young person of color pursuing a career in criminal justice or public service?

Justice Sotomayor, who has been on the Supreme Court since 2009, had one more opportunity to interact with students at a reception in her honor held in the Shiva Gallery.

Law School Admissions & Scholarships Continue to Rise

Applicants include (from left to right) Pasang Tsering, Marco Carvajal,
and Johanny Santana (far right).

The recently concluded 2013-2014 law school application season was especially productive for John Jay students, with 41 individuals affiliated with the Pre Law Institute (PLI) securing acceptances to 65 different law schools, as well as receiving over $9.5 million in scholarship awards.

“These students were admitted to many well-regarded law schools, including several selective institutions within New York City, such as the New York University, Fordham, Cardozo Law School and Brooklyn Law School,” said Vielka Holness, the PLI Director and head of the Office of Fellowship and Scholarship Opportunities. “Many other top-ranked law schools across the country are included with not just offers of admission but also large scholarships.”

Holness credited the increase in law school admissions to students’ involvement in PLI programs such as the Pre Law Boot Camps, the LSAT Prep Program and Scholarship, and the more than 40 other opportunities offered by PLI each year.

The newest PLI initiative — the Paula Howell Anderson PLI Scholars Program — will help each of four John Jay pre-law students to prepare for law school applications. The program is funded by alumna Paula Howell Anderson, who went on to Harvard Law School and is now a partner at the law firm of Shearman & Sterling LLP, as well as a Trustee of the John Jay College Foundation.

The Anderson PLI Scholars will be chosen on the basis of their academic achievements and dedication to the pursuit of law school. The scholarship will cover costs related to registering for the LSAT, the Credential Assembly Service and the Law School Reports as well as law school application fees and participation in Pre Law Boot Camps, LSAT preparation and other PLI programs, in addition to advisement and mentoring.

The Pre Law Boot Camps are held during seasonal breaks in the academic year, giving students an intensive, week-long opportunity to polish their writing, critical thinking, argumentation and logical reasoning skills. Holness also pointed out that the PLI works to increase student success by providing increased access to individual and group advisement sessions, identifying private sponsorships, increasing the number of schools and students participating in the Graduate and Professional School Fair in conjunction with the Center for Career and Professional Development, and increasing the number of internships for pre-law students.

In addition to Anderson, the PLI enjoys the support of John Jay College Foundation trustees Anne Beane Rudman, LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson and Richard Koehler.

For more information on the PLI, including the Paula Howell Anderson PLI Scholars Program, visit www.jjay.cuny.edu/pli.

Writing Center Named for Branding Visionary Alan Siegel

To recognize a generous gift from Alan Siegel, a Trustee of the John Jay College Foundation and President and CEO of Siegelvision, the College dedicated the Alan Siegel Writing Center on Sept. 18. The naming ceremony saluted Siegel for his commitment and contributions to building a world-class communications program for the College.

A renowned figure in branding and a pioneer behind simplified communications in business, the professions and government, Siegel developed John Jay’s brand identity keyed to the theme of “Fierce Advocates for Justice.”

“We are very grateful for Alan Siegel’s generosity as well as his contributions to the College’s new brand identity,” said President Jeremy Travis. “His dedication and vision have helped to communicate and solidify John Jay’s position as the preeminent leader in educating for justice “His support of The Siegel Fellowship will help students master their writing skills, making the dedication of our Writing Center in his name very fitting.”

The Alan Siegel Writing Center provides tutoring and writing consultation to all undergraduate and graduate students. Trained tutors work with students on conceptual and sentence-level skills, rules of grammar and style. The center emphasizes formulating a thesis, organizing and developing ideas, documenting American Psychological Association (APA) style, evaluating evidence and revising a paper, and content specific to various disciplines. The center also offers numerous writing-oriented workshops as well as intensive CUNY Proficiency Exam preparation.

The transformative gift from Siegel will also establish the Siegel Fellowship, a five-semester program led by Professor Dara Byrne that will focus on strategic internal and external communications in the private and public sectors, the development of effective presentations, clear writing techniques, and measuring the impact of one’s work. Fellows will present their creative work to a panel of experts at the end of each semester.

The Writing Center will also produce an annual Siegel symposium for all John Jay students and the public, featuring distinguished academics, communicators, corporate and government executives and researchers to explore strategic communications issues and connecting with key academics.

Over five decades, Siegel has been both a pillar of the establishment and provocative iconoclast while building Siegel+Gale, one of the leading global brand consultancies. In 2011, he created Siegelvision, a new company focused on solving tough branding and communications problems for purpose-driven organizations. Siegel has written extensively on branding and the importance of simplicity as a competitive advantage. His latest book, Simple, co-written with longtime colleague Irene Etzkorn, was named a “Best in Business Book of 2013” by Booz & Company.

Sex Work Is the Focus of Semester-Long Series

Professor Samantha Majic’s scholarly interest in sex work and the rights of those in the trade dates to her doctoral studies at Cornell, when she focused on poor women’s sexuality in the context of gender and political issues. Now, on the heels of her latest book, Sex Work Politics: From Protest to Service Provision, Majic is the opening presenter in the “Sex Work Initiative,” a series of panel discussions, lectures and book talks that will run throughout the fall semester.

Having shifted the focus to the policy side of sex work while doing field research in San Francisco, Majic, a member of the Department of Political Science, pointed out that sex work is more than just prostitution. It also includes dancing, pornography and fetish work, among other forms, yet only prostitution is criminalized. Moreover, she noted, the United States is the only Western country that almost uniformly criminalizes prostitution.

Some factions, Majic noted, “have linked up to fight sex work from a consumer standpoint, the johns, but what they’re doing is just reapplying criminalization.”

Majic also sees a propensity for mislabeling. “There’s a tendency to equate all sex work with sex trafficking, but they’re not the same thing.” She is hopeful that the Sex Work Initiative will encourage others to think about the subject more broadly, and get away from the common misconception that sex work and sex trafficking are synonymous.

In Sex Work Politics, Majic examines two nonprofit organizations in San Francisco — the St. James Infirmary and the California Prostitutes Education Project — that provide free, nonjudgmental health and social services by and for sex workers. To maintain these services and to qualify for government funding, such organizations must comply with federal and state regulations for nonprofits, and Majic explores how nonprofit organizations negotiate their governmental obligations while maintaining a commitment to outreach, advocacy and sociopolitical change.

Majic discussed her new book, which was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in December 2013, in a book talk held on Oct. 8 in the Moot Court. Other events in the semester-long series include panel discussions on system responses to the sex trade (Oct. 22), sex worker narratives in their own words (Oct. 29) and sex worker health and safety (Nov. 5), and an open-forum faculty conversation on funding sex work-related research (Nov. 12). For the complete Sex Work Initiative schedule, contact Bettina Muenster at bmuenster@jjay.cuny.edu or visit website.

The Stage Is Set for John Jay Alumna’s Career in Correctional Psychology

John Jay has a long and proud history of combining the arts and criminal justice. Alumna Jana Demetral (BA/MA ’13) is continuing that tradition, combining her background in drama and theater education with her degrees in forensic psychology as she provides critical mental health services to prison inmates in Raleigh, N.C.

Demetral, a North Carolina native, is currently a staff psychologist with the state Department of Public Safety, working at Central Prison in Raleigh, the hub for health care and mental health care services for male inmates, as well as the site for housing special locations, including Death Row. She is currently assigned to an Inpatient Regular Population Unit in the hospital, where she helped open the state’s first Inpatient Treatment Mall, after having spent the previous year and a half working with a 24-patient Acute Inpatient Mental Health Segregation Unit.

“They are chronically mentally ill patients who often lapse with their medication, and become psychotic and have the potential to act out, sometimes violently,” Demetral said. “It is definitely a job where you have to stay alert at all times.”

Demetral handles initial intake, the development and management of individual treatment plans, including monitoring medication compliance, and recording progress with treatment goals. She also facilitates group and individual therapy, and that’s where her pre-John Jay background comes in. “I have been doing art therapy groups on Death Row, and I started a new drama therapy group as well, with 30 inmates,” said Demetral, who has a B.A. in Theater Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

It’s been a circuitous career path for Demetral. “I had a lot of eclectic interests growing up,” she recalled, “but always a fascination with true crime. My research papers in junior high were based on Lizzie Borden and Ted Bundy. About that time, I fell in love with acting and studied it all through high school. My idea was to join my two loves and become an FBI agent, and work undercover.”

Her FBI dreams went unfulfilled, as did a “starry-eyed” stab at an acting career, but her interest in criminology and psychology never faded. “I learned that there was actually a name for what I always wanted to do — Forensic Psychology — and that John Jay was the best school for this, with amazing professors.”

Her John Jay experience was everything she could have asked for. Demetral was particularly captivated by her undergraduate Correctional Psychology course work with Professor Gerard Bryant, a former Psychological Services Administrator for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, who is now John Jay’s Director of Counseling. “I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Bryant,” said Demetral. “I learned everything I know from him. He served as my mentor and supervised one of my externships. There are so many amazing professors at John Jay who are nationally and internationally known for their work, and having the chance to learn from them is incredible.”

Yet perhaps the biggest takeaway from her John Jay education, Demetral said, is the importance of rehabilitation with the incarcerated, in order to break the cycle of crime. Recently, she noted, “One of my Death Row inmates in my art therapy group came to me after class and thanked me. He said, ‘You know, it’s not even so much about us being all that interested in art. We come to your groups because you care about what happens to us.’ That was a huge compliment, because I do care. I really want to help change the system from a strictly punitive one to a rehabilitative one.”

Remembering 9/11 with Pledges of Action

Jonathan Romano was one of many members of the John Jay community who marked the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by making pledges of action and community service. Romano, a carpenter with the Department of Facilities Management, stands in front of the College’s 9/11 memorial with his pledge to give “all my weekends for one month to Sandy victims.”


And Justice for All. . .

Kathy Martinez, Assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, was the keynote speaker at the conference "Pursuing Justice" that was held at John Jay on Sept. 19. This marked the 15th anniversary of the watershed Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C., which affirmed the rights of people with disabilities to live, work and fully participate in their communities. Martinez pressed the cause of “integrated employment,” which she called a “gateway to economic and social independence. “It’s time to take off the chains of low expectations,” said Martinez. The speaker was introduced by John Jay Student Council Secretary Grace Agalos, who observed that Martinez, who was born blind, “reminds us that just because we have a disability doesn’t mean we are below anyone else.” Martinez’s presentation at the conference was noted in the Labor Department’s online newsletter DOL News Brief. Click here to read more.

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