Criminal justice is a vast world with a varied range of careers and specialties. Within each criminal justice category (i.e. law enforcement, corrections and the judiciary) there is a plethora of specialties and job titles. There are also a variety of workplaces and employers, such as government or public agencies and private firms.
Those pursuing a criminal justice career can also find numerous opportunities within the non-profit sector. “Non-profit organizations provide great opportunities to make a difference in communities locally or internationally, while gaining valuable skills and experience,” states The University of Vermont’s Career Services. “Non-profit does not mean non-paid, but the primary focus of the organization is to serve a mission, not shareholders.”
It takes a special kind of person to work for a non-profit. Because such organizations are generally striving to serve a certain cause or population rather than to make the big bucks, they often have to do a lot with few resources. In some cases then, employees who work for non-profits might be stretched too thin taking on a lot of projects, which can lead to burn-out. However, according to the Columbia University Center for Career Education (citing a 2002 Brookings Institute survey), “97% of not-for-profit workers say they feel they accomplish something worthwhile through their jobs” and “75% of not-for-profit employees strongly disagree that their work is boring, compared with 58% of for-profit employees.”
Let’s look at just some examples of criminal justice opportunities in the non-profit sector:
The National Center on Institutions and Alternatives (NCIA) provides services to and on behalf of youth and adults with intellectual disabilities. Along with educational and residential programs, NCIA has provided criminal justice services to over 20,000 individuals across the country and internationally, including helping defendants understand the process, consulting defense attorneys and helping develop appropriate community-based sentencing/treatment plans. Current openings at NCIA include “residential counselor” and “job coach”.
The Rand Corporation is non-profit that has around 1,700 employees from over 50 countries. Its mission is to help “improve policy and decision making through research and analysis,” states its website. It conducts research in numerous areas including homeland security and terrorism, law and public safety. Some recent job postings on its website are for “information security analyst”, “research assistant” and “field interviewer”. Rand also has internship/fellowship opportunities and college recruitment programs.
The Innocence Project
In 2011, Philanthropedia asked 126 criminal justice experts what they thought were the top non profit organizations in the country. The Innocence Project was ranked #1. This non profit is an organization seeking to exonerate innocent individuals that have been convicted through DNA testing and to also help reduce the frequency of wrongful convictions. The Innocence Project sometimes hires legal professionals and interns and is currently advertising a paralegal position.
There are numerous other non-profit organizations where criminal justice professionals might find a home. Or maybe you’ll start your own non-profit organization some day, like Kat Albrecht (former police officer, 911 dispatcher and K-9 trainer) who founded the Missing Pet Partnership, a non-profit, pet detective organization.