Criminal justice’s new promise

Dr. Ryan Alexander, the new criminal justice studies program at Allen Community College, is enthusiastic about the opportunities provided by the new Kansas Promise Scholarship program. He also wants the college and community criminal justice groups to work together.

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August 31, 2021 - 9:30 AM

Dr. Ryan Alexander is the new coordinator for Allen Community College’s criminal justice program. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Dr. Ryan Alexander hopes Allen Community College students will take advantage of the new Kansas Promise Scholarship program, which will help students cover the costs of attending a community college.

ACC’s criminal justice studies program is one of several that qualifies for the scholarship, and Alexander is excited to see how that might help him grow the program.

“I think community colleges are really going to start to open up as far as accessibility and availability,” he said. 

“The Kansas Promise Scholarship allows more students to attend community colleges for virtually nothing.”

Alexander is the new coordinator for ACC’s criminal justice program. In addition to determining classes for ACC and preparing students to transition to a four-year program, he also plans to work with various community groups to create a Criminal Justice Advisory Board. 

“There’s an enormous need in criminal justice for people with degrees. This program is ripe to grow,” he said. 

“Now more than ever, it’s important to educate students and the larger community about the importance of criminal justice.”

Police carry enormous responsibilities, he said. Their role as “problem solvers” has created debate in recent years over the types of qualifications required. 

“We talk about problem oriented policing and community oriented policing, and understanding what that actually means to be a problem solver,” Alexander said. “There’s an evolutionary nature to the whole system.”

Law enforcement is just one aspect of criminal justice. Alexander also teaches about the vital roles of the court system and corrections, and how they also adapt over time. For example, “drug courts,” like the one offered through the 31st Judicial District, provide opportunities to resolve underlying problems rather than simply punish an offender. Corrections departments often offer reintegration programs for offenders who are released from prison.

“You’re not just releasing someone out into the community and saying, ‘Good luck.’ It’s a reintegration process,” he said. “That’s what’s exciting about this field. It’s constantly evolving.”

Alexander grew up in South Dakota and graduated from South Dakota State University. He moved to Wichita to work as a parole officer, and later as a probation officer with court services.

He decided to return to school and earned a master’s degree at Washburn and a doctorate at Kansas State University.

Criminal justice has always fascinated Alexander. 

“I was just really interested in policy and what influenced correctional policy,” he said. 

He also developed an interest in teaching, and finds it very fulfilling.

“Watching the light bulb turn on or having a student come back a couple years later and say I’m working for a sheriff’s department in California is really gratifying.”

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