Family and Friends in Uniform: Effect of Close Relationships on CJ Major Selection Among Diverse Students in Urban Colleges




adult learning, criminal justice, social justice


This article investigates the complexity of the relationships criminal justice (CJ) students from two large, diverse urban colleges (N=371) have with family and friends who are both work within CJ institutions as professionals, but also with family and friends who are adversely impacted by the criminal justice system. In particular, the impact of having a family or friend in a CJ profession on motivations to enter the CJ are probed. A survey consisting of quantitative and qualitative questions was administered, and descriptive and inferential statistics obtained. Findings showed 40% of students both had family and friends affected by the CJ major and who had family and friends who worked in a CJ profession. There was a high degree of correlation between those with CJ connections and the influence those connections exert towards the choice of CJ as a college major. Implications for adult educators of these students is discussed.

Author Biographies

Colleen Eren, William Paterson University

Colleen Eren, received her PhD in Sociology from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 2013. She is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at William Paterson University, and in Fall 2019, will direct their Criminology and Criminal Justice Program. Previously, she co-directed the Criminal Justice Program of LaGuardia Community College, a program of over 1300 students. Her book, Bernie Madoff and the Crisis: The Public Trial of Capitalism was published by Stanford University Press in 2017. She has published in peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Criminal Justice Education, The Community College Journal of Research and Practice, New Politics, and The Journal of Sport and Society, as well as numerous book chapters. She has 13 years of undergraduate teaching experience, including at Hofstra University, Hunter College and Queens College. She also has a background in social justice organizing around criminal justice issues: For over five years she was Director of Organizing at New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, which led a successful statewide campaign to keep capital punishment out of New York.

Ilir Disha, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Ilir Disha Ilir Disha, PhD, is an assistant professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College (CUNY). Dr. Disha's research interests at large are on the links between racial/ethnic differences and crime rates. One line of his work explores the effects of immigrant patterns of assimilation on crime. Another investigates patterns of anti-Arab/Muslim hate crimes after significant social events. Currently he is working on a project on hate crimes after the 2016 presidential election.

Shirley Leyro, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Shirley Leyro, PhD, is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Borough of Manhattan College (CUNY). A critical criminologist, Dr. Leyro's research focuses on deportation effects--including the impact of fear resulting from the vulnerability to deportation. She is co-editor of the book--Outside Justice: Immigration and Criminalizing the Impact of Changing Policy and Practice (Spring 2013). She is currently working on a funded research project exploring the impact of deportability on belonging and membership of CUNY non-citizen students.


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