Providing a realistic picture of criminal justice

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Elyshia Aseltine

Elyshia Aseltine may be the only professor at Towson University who wants to see her students in prison. An associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice, Aseltine and professor Michelle Manasse co-created a program that brings incarcerated students and college students together, side by side behind prison walls, to learn and collaborate.

After completing intensive training at the national headquarters of the program’s model, the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, Aseltine and Manasse brought their pilot program and a cohort of students to the Baltimore Detention Center in 2014. Additional courses have been offered since, including one at the Harford County Detention Center in the fall of 2017. Aseltine’s interests and expertise focus on racism and inequality in the prison system, so the Inside Out courses have been favorites of hers.

Students sometimes have a naive vision of criminal justice careers. Television and films offer a perspective that is fast-paced, exciting, and usually wrong when it comes to day-to-day law enforcement.

“Students are drawn to our department because they want careers in law enforcement, and we provide them with a more realistic picture of what actually happens in the criminal justice system.”

“We provide [students] with a more realistic picture of what actually happens in the criminal justice system.”

Elyshia Aseltine

Aseltine is proud of her department’s efforts to encourage cross-campus dialogue about pressing social issues. For example, the department sponsored a screening of Ken Burns’ documentary, The Central Park Five, which included a public conversation with the black and Latino men who were wrongly accused of rape. “Students are always saying ‘I had no idea!’ in response to something they learned through our department.”

Aseltine thinks that is just great. When myths are dispelled, there is more room for the truth.