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Dr. Cicely J. Cottrell, scholar on restorative justice, justice reform, now serving as Director of Spalding University’s Criminal Justice Studies program

Steve Jones

At a time when the country is focused intensely on social justice and potential police reform, Spalding University has hired Dr. Cicely J. Cottrell – a scholar on restorative justice, the school-to-prison pipeline and the use of force by law enforcement – as the new director of its undergraduate Criminal Justice Studies program.

Cottrell, who began at Spalding on July 1, 2020, most recently served from 2017-20 as Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Chowan University in North Carolina. The Harlan, Kentucky, native holds a doctorate in sociology and criminology from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Now directed by Cottrell, the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies program at Spalding was launched in 2019 with a focus on restorative practices and criminal justice reform. While criminal justice programs are ubiquitous at colleges and universities, Spalding’s curriculum is believed to be one of the few in Kentucky, if not the nation, to emphasize restorative justice.

Cottrell has collaborated on multiple research articles relevant to issues of social justice and policing that are at the forefront of our national dialogue. The topics of her work include the use of deadly force by police, so-called stop-and-frisk policies, the wearing of body cameras by police, and the effects of school suspensions on delinquency.

OVERVIEW | BS in Criminal Justice Studies program

“With her experience and passion for criminal justice reform and restorative justice, Dr. Cicely Cottrell will be an outstanding leader of our innovative criminal justice studies program,” Spalding President Tori Murden McClure said. “Spalding is committed to the promotion of social justice and systemic change, and this academic program is an example of that commitment. Led by Dr. Cottrell, this program will give future professionals in law enforcement, the courts, corrections and government an understanding of racial biases in our justice system while teaching ways the system can be improved and made more equitable.”

While completing her doctorate, Cottrell spent 2016 in Washington working as a policy fellow for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, advising members of Congress and staff on criminal justice and civil rights policy, and assisting on drafting legislation, supporting communications and research materials.

Cottrell, who has also served as an instructor at Montgomery College in Maryland and as a teaching assistant at Howard, has additional interest in research and policy related to drug addiction, with a focus on compassionate approaches to rehabilitation.

Her other professional experience includes working for the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Job Corps Center, helping students achieve academic and career goals; for the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, monitoring conditional release cases; and for the Kentucky Department of Corrections, serving as a correctional officer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Western Kentucky University and a master’s in administration of justice from the University of Louisville.

“What struck me about Spalding was reading about its mission and focus on compassion, peace and justice, and that aligns with my own values and what I teach my students,” Cottrell said. “Throughout my career, I’ve really learned that in our justice system there is a lot of focus on crime control and punishment, rather than on repairing harm and restoring relationships and providing resources toward rehabilitation. I’ve learned that a lot of compassion and forgiveness are needed when you are making decisions that impact someone’s freedom as well as their ability to provide for their basic needs to survive. Having the opportunity to work at an institution where these values are embedded, it’s not just me as a professor teaching these values to students; it’s the whole institution.”

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