Howard University Graduate School

HUGS Research Magazine
and Graduate School Research Archive

INTERVIEWIssue 020

Cassandra Jean's Research on PTSD and Youth Rehabilitation

By Anastasia Tamali

Cassandra Jean , Doctoral Student, Sociology and Criminology
Cassandra Jean , Doctoral Student, Sociology and Criminology

Interview with Cassandra Jean

Q: Where are you from?
Jean: Long Island, New York

Q: What influenced you to choose your current field of study?
Jean: Throughout my academic career, I have always known that I do not want to work under anyone's agenda. Instead, I want to conduct research on my many interests, including public administration and policy, victims of war, human and civil rights, and the criminal justice system. To obtain my goals, I want to learn as many qualitative and quantitative methods as possible, which has led me to pursuing my doctorate in Sociology and Criminology.

Q: Would you tell us about your dissertation?
Jean: I am toggling between topics, but my focus right now is to look at PTSD levels in juveniles of color that are sentenced to correctional facilities versus second step court ordered programs. I argue that due to the disparity among juveniles of color sentenced to these facilities and white juveniles, juveniles of color are more likely to have PTSD, which increases the likelihood of recidivism. I hypothesize that the facility's management tactics are outdated, and do not cater to rehabilitating the youth, like second step programs. Instead, these policies in the facilities and the juvenile justice system are doing the opposite, which increases the chances of them proceeding to the adult prison system.

Q: Tell us briefly about the theoretical framework in developing your research.
Jean: For this topic, I am employing the general strain theory, which states that when an individual is treated in an aggressive and negative manner, they respond with increased criminal activity. This strain, which agitates the mental health of an already fragile community, leads them to commit more violent crimes.

Q: What audiences are you addressing; what are some of the other books or scholars in your field; and how does your work compare with theirs?
Jean: I am catering to those who are involved in the juvenile justice system, and policy makers interested in this type of social policy. Many scholars have made the connection between PTSD and sentenced juveniles, but have not compared the juveniles against other delinquents. They are focusing on those who have been incarcerated against those who have not. My topic, which takes this narrative further, focuses on delinquents already in the system and the racial disparity that exists between youth of color face and their white counterparts.

Q: Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?
Jean: Hopefully employed by a non-profit or government organization, or at a university managing projects, conducting research, and eventually teaching.

Q: If you get more than one job offer, how will you decide between them?
Jean: This is hard, but I would probably go with the one that caters more to my desire to conduct as much research as possible. I would have to see which has the biggest opportunity for growth ... and of course, wherever the money is.

Q: What are some funding opportunities that you happened to take advantage of? What would you recommend to other graduate students when it comes to funding?
Jean: Previously, I was working on a grant with the National Park Service and the Sociology Department under the direction of Dr. Rubin Patterson and Dr. Judy Lubin. Currently, I am a graduate student research fellow in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology under Dr. Terri Adams. I would encourage other graduate students to inquire within their department for funding, and if possible, try outside sources such as the Foundation Center or speaking to someone in the Graduate School for funding advice.

Anastasia Tomaili is a doctoral student in Political Science.

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