As with many faculty members, Dr. Jakari Griffith’s life experience has helped shape the educator and researcher he is today.
The assistant professor of management and 2019 Award for Academic Excellence recipient came to Bridgewater State in 2003, after teaching at Salem State College. Early in his career, he focused on management issues revolving around positive psychology and leadership.
Eventually, however, Dr. Griffith, who grew up in Rockland County, New York, found a topic that was closer to home: researching ways to help ex-offenders find suitable employment once they’re released from prison.
The popular professor is no stranger to the law. Dr. Griffith’s father is a retired New York City police officer, and, in 2008, his younger brother was a victim of deadly gunfire. Instead of seeking retribution for that terrible act, he turned in the other direction. “I honor my brother not only by grieving, but also by my actions,” he said.
Some sort of vengeance, whether it’s an eye for an eye, a hefty prison sentence or the death penalty, may help the loved ones of some victims feel better, but Dr. Griffith said it can too often be a Pyrrhic victory.
“None of it helps anyone to become whole again,” he said. “Educating people and providing dignified employment offers us the best chance to avoid violence to begin with.”
Dr. Griffith received a PhD in management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a Master of Arts in public administration from Florida A&M University, and a Bachelor of Arts from the School of Business & Industry, also at Florida A&M University. At BSU, he teaches courses on human resources, organizational behavior and leadership.
When not in the classroom or working on issues he’s passionate about, Dr. Griffith can be found running marathons (in March he completed one in Los Angeles) or riding ultra-long distances on his bike. Sometimes, his son Jaeden, 16, accompanies him.
The route from prison to work is little understood. An article by Dr. Griffith and some of his colleagues that looked at a decade’s worth of studies on prison-to-work initiatives was recently accepted by an international journal. They could find just 58 studies. “There are tons of questions that have not been answered,” Dr. Griffith said.
He is intent on removing the stigma attached to former inmates when they enter the job force and is seeking ways to educate employers about the fact that former offenders often make excellent employees. Dr. Griffith is pushing an initiative to provide incentives for employers willing to hire individuals after they are released.
While he believes that some people commit crimes that necessitate their being separated from society for extensive periods of time, or even forever, Dr. Griffith hopes the recent study and his continuing work will open some minds to those convicted of lesser offenses.
“It would be great to put forward some policy guidance or to help validate the view that ex-offenders are an added value and can make a contribution to society,” he said. “We’re trying to find the win-win.”