In this edition, we feature a profile of Stephanie Bush-Baskette, J.D. Ph.D. Read on to find out about your DWC colleague!
How did you become interested in the field of women and/or gender and crime?
Shortly after I entered the doctoral program at Rutgers, I read a report by Marc Mauer and Tracy Huling that indicated there had been an 828% increase in the number of black women who were incarcerated for drug offenses between 1986 and 1991. This percentage increase was almost double that of black males and much greater than that of white or Hispanic females and males. I was shocked! Not only did the increase surprise me, but I was also taken aback by the fact I had never heard about how disproportionately black women were represented within the criminal justice system. Mind you, I had been a practicing attorney for several years, and as a state legislator had served as vice-chair of the New Jersey Criminal Disposition Commission (the late Don Gottfredson was the chair). This information was and has been my touchstone for my ongoing interest and passion for understanding the relationship between race/ethnicity and gender and the policies that are related to the incarceration and successful re-entry of women.
How do you define yourself as a scholar/activist/educator?
I see myself as a combination of all three. My professional background is very diverse yet very much connected. I began as a practicing attorney, served in the New Jersey State Legislature, was appointed to the New Jersey Gubernatorial Cabinet as the head of a major state agency, decided to earn a doctorate, was a full-time faculty member, then a senior researcher for the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and now the director of the Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers – Newark. Through all of those experiences, and now, my goal is to assist and challenge people to think and to operate from an informed position. As a scholar I write about policy issues and have chosen to write and publish in a way that policy makers and the public can easily gain access to my books. Through my teaching, I challenge students in how to think and not what to think. As an activist, I promote informed decision-making by elected and appointed officials and participation in policy-making and policy-changing by informed citizens.
What are your current projects or interests?
I am very interested in the impact of drug policies on women, particularly how they impact various ethnic groups. I am very excited because I have finally finished my book entitled Misguided Justice: The Impact of the War on Drugs on the Incarceration of Black Women. It is scheduled to be released by the end of March or early April. I am also working on re-entry issues and policies.
Who is your favorite person (or animal!) to spend time with, and what are your favorite things to do when you are with them?
I love animals and have four adopted dogs (Berkeley, Zia, Sage, and Max) and one adopted cat (Simba). One of my best places is for all of us to be sitting outside of my RV in the woods at a campsite. Peace and love all around.
How do you wind down after a stressful day?
I actually find that my best way to unwind is to exercise. I love Zumba, Leslie Sansone’s 3-5 mile walk at home DVDs, and Pilates. Any of those really release the stress and keep me from eating my way through the night.
What obstacles do you feel you have overcome to be where you are today?
I don’t know. Throughout my life I have kept in touch with who I am, what I want, and prepared myself to get “there”. By doing so, I have been prepared to accept opportunities that have come my way that were beyond what I had even imagined. Most things involve choice. With all choices there are consequences and consequences are not always a negative. Whatever my obstacles were, I guess I was so focused on following my passions and preparing myself to fulfill those passions, I did not energize the obstacles by focusing on them and overcame the obstacles as a by-product of concentrating on what I needed and wanted to accomplish.
What would you like to be remembered for?
As someone who impacted the lives of others – human and animal- in a positive way, through laws I sponsored, words and information I shared, interactions I’ve had, and the life I live.
What is one of your lifelong goals?
My lifelong goal has been to help people help themselves. In addition to how I have accomplished that to date, my goal is now to be a professional life coach/certified mediator/author/researcher/speaker. I am too eclectic to do one thing!
Is there a website where we can send people for more information about you?
What are one or two of your publications that you feel best represents your work?
Misguided Justice: The Impact of the War on Drugs on the Incarceration of Black Women. It should be released by early April, 2010. Please check my website.