Examining Criminal Justice in the Classroom
Professor Evelyn Del Rosario has served as an immigration attorney, owning her own practice and helping countless undocumented families navigate the legal system. As a daughter of hard working immigrants who deeply valued education, she found her niche and passion as an educator.
Dr. Eric Clark is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has had a lengthy career in security and law enforcement. After retiring from a career as a U.S. marshal, Dr. Clark has focused on educating students and dispelling preconceived notions on race, law enforcement, and criminality.
How has watching the Black Lives Matter movement unfold affected your commitment to a system that structurally allows for discrimination and violence?
Professor Del Rosario: It’s made me realize how important it is to have a seat at the table — Black people, Latino people, women — we need to be involved in these processes and these structures to see any kind of systemic change.
Dr. Clark: It made me more vulnerable when I present these things, because I was a part of this system. I want to present the rules that are set in stone that allow officers to use force, and it leads to these vulnerable conversations with students where I ask them what they would do in these gray situations. I want them to look at all aspects of it.
As a person of color, did you have anxieties about your career path? Have you faced any pushback from friends or family?
Professor Del Rosario: Opposite actually, I was pushed forward. My family has always been extremely proud and supportive. Being in law school, I realized, some things where I lacked, but I did go to University of Baltimore where it was very diverse.
Dr. Clark: Some of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with is being a Black, Muslim, larger man in law enforcement. It's difficult being Black, and conscious, in law enforcement. One thing that I know is that I was fair in how I handled people, no matter their race or what they did to me, because at the end of the day, I still saw they were just people. But I still live with implications of being a part of the system.
What message do you have for students who want to work in criminal justice, but are hesitant because of the flaws built into the system?
Professor Del Rosario: They have to go into that because of how flawed it is! If you are passionate, you have an obligation to do it, because honestly, we’re only here on this Earth to teach and learn. Take what you know and go out and make the world better than it is.
Dr. Clark: I would say, reach out to Professor Del Rosario first, as she is more knowledgeable, and me second! Try to get a better understanding of the working knowledge of being involved in this career. This is a rewarding field but if you don't have the passion, the enthusiasm, the compassion to be a public servant — don’t do it. The goal of the criminal justice system is to put people in jail and there are far-reaching emotional effects of that. You need to have an outlet. What I want students to know is to practice due diligence, trust but verify, be firm but have compassion.