May 26, 2020 FALL 2019

Full Circle

Ronald F. Day ’19, Ph.D., proves what’s possible when people have access to an education.

By Andrea Dawn Clark

Ronald F. Day ’19, Ph.D., grew up in the South Bronx at the height of the hip-hop movement. His family was on public assistance, and Day ended up dropping out of high school in the ninth grade. But even without the structured setting of a classroom, teenage Ronald often found himself getting up early in the morning, buying a newspaper, and sitting on the front stoop reading it. “I was always very interested in learning,” says Day. His mother, Lorene, got her G.E.D. and was working on her bachelor’s degree. She appealed to her 17-year-old son to follow in her footsteps.

“I didn’t study for the G.E.D. I just went and took the exam. By sheer luck I passed,” says Day. Around the same time he found himself gravitating to the drug culture surrounding him. “It was a drug-infested neighborhood. I had friends that were engaging in criminal behavior, selling drugs, and I followed in their footsteps. With a limited education, I felt like I had no future to earn money but to hustle.” Like many other young men of color in his neighborhood, Day got caught up in the criminal justice system. He was sentenced to 15 to 45 years in prison, and started his “educational odyssey” in Sing Sing Correctional Facility.

The simple fact that Day had his G.E.D. made a world of difference in his life. It meant that while he was incarcerated, he could start taking college courses immediately. “It also made a difference because it connected me with a different crowd. They were more focused. These were the guys that were running the law library and different organizations,” says Day. It was the first time in his life that he was exposed to positive programming specifically for African-American men. They motivated and challenged each other as they analyzed what was happening in their communities. After 15 years of incarceration, Day came home with 51 college credits and 32 certificate credits. Before his release, Day reached out to the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI), and they helped him transition—connecting him to colleges that would accept his credits, getting him involved in a mentorship program, finding him paid internship opportunities, and supporting his academic goals.

In the 10 years that followed, Day earned his bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and in December of 2018 he successfully defended his dissertation and received his doctorate degree from the CUNY Graduate Center and John Jay College. “Individuals like myself are living examples of the difference an education can make,” says Day. “If a person gets involved in education, there’s a greater likelihood that they’re going to get a decent job and provide for their family. Education changes your outlook. We have to stop looking at the criminal justice system only through a punitive lens.”

As the Vice President of Programs at The Fortune Society, Day passionately supports reentry programs, while tirelessly working to dismantle the stigma of incarceration. Through Columbia University, he’s come full circle, teaching classes at Sing Sing, the same correctional facility he once inhabited himself. Day looks at these classes as the opportunity to fulfill the dreams of his mother.

While working on his Ph.D., Lorene told her son how proud she was that he was giving back to the community. She had championed him from the start, and she had three dresses picked out for his graduation celebrations. Sadly, Lorene passed away before she had the opportunity to wear them. “Whenever people ask me, what I’m most proud of, the answer is always making my mother proud before she passed away,” says Day. “Now, I’m in a position to do something for that young man just sitting in the neighborhood, indulging in drug activity, and not getting an education. That young man is smart. That young man can have a bright future. And, his mother can be proud of him too.”


Class of 2019 Then & Now

This past May, the class of 2019 graduated from John Jay College. We checked in with a few of them to find out how they’re launching their careers

President’s Letter

At John Jay College we’re used to taking on tough challenges. Our student body knows how to juggle jobs, academics,...

Campus News

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards a $1.5 million Grant to the Prisoner Reentry Institute.

By the Numbers

In 2019, John Jay College graduated the largest class in its history: 3,144 bachelor’s degrees and 698 master’s degrees.

Dive In

John Jay’s new pool will open up swimming opportunities for underrepresented populations. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Camera Ready

Understanding the Impact of Law Enforcement Wearing Body Cameras. By Sam Anderson

On the Edge of Glory

The new Completion for Upper-division Students Program (CUSP) supports seniors with 90-plus credits, removing any obstacles blocking their pathway to success. By Mary Anderson

Food For Thought

Tackling the growing food-insecurity problem, making sure that John Jay students are nourished both mentally and physically. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Read All About it

How the new Justice e-Reader is bringing together a collection of justice-focused texts, creating an intellectual hub for our community and classrooms. By Shirley Del Valle

Natural Born Advocate

Roshawn Boyce ’95 shines a light on social injustices. By Shirley Del Valle

The Real Nature of Sexual Violence

Professor Elizabeth Jeglic, Ph.D., uses research and straight-forward approaches in her mission to advance the prevention of sexual violence. By Mary Anderson

Tackling Educational Inequality

John Mara, President, CEO, and co-owner of the New York Giants, explains his passion for improving educational access opportunities. By Andrea Dawn Clark

The Institute for Innovation in Prosecution Reimagines the Role of Prosecutors

Seeking to create a fairer, more equitable criminal justice system, the IIP is dedicated to transforming prosecutors’ roles  in the criminal justice system. By Jocelyn Key

Flashback – 1988

Mother Teresa at John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the 23rd Commencement.

Karol V. Mason

Vice President for Public Affairs
and Strategic Initiatives

Laura Ginns

Chief Communications Officer
Rama Sudhakar

Senior Editor/Writer
Editorial Director

Andrea Dawn Clark

Shirley Del Valle

Contributing Writers
Mary Anderson
Sam Anderson
Jocelyn Key

Senior Designer/Art Director
Laura DeVries

Stephanie Birdsong

Copy Editor
Carey Ostergard

Denis Gostev
Amber Gray

Sandy Bandes