Kent State Professor Studies Young Adults Coming Out of Justice System

Transitioning into adulthood is a difficult thing to do, but having to come out of the criminal justice system as a young adult has different effects on your maturity and experience. Elias Nader, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology, wants to better understand why.

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Elias Nader, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology

“I’ve been working on it for a couple of years,” Nader, a criminologist, said. “Basically, it’s taking a look at how young people develop and mature through a developmental psychology lens and how their needs are impacted by experiences in the justice system. So, things like arrests and incarceration in particular.”

book cover of Elias Nader book

Nader’s book was recently published by Routledge and is titled: Growing Up and Out of Crime: Desistance Maturation, and Emerging Adulthood. It explores some of the themes, such as the maturation process, that he has collected so far in his research.

In March, Nader received a grant from The Russell Sage Foundation, in partnership with the Economic Mobility and Opportunity program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, awarded to emerging scholars through their Pipeline Grants Competition. The purpose of the grant is to examine the experiences of justice-involved young adults in accessing employment, education, and training.

He and his graduate students worked with a community-based agency that serves young people who have just come out of the justice system.

“I conducted some interviews with these young people to essentially get their narratives and learn about how they developed.” Nader said. “How they matured and how that was impacted by their experiences being incarcerated or being arrested and how they're trying to get away from that. How they redefine themselves as they grow, as many young people do.”

Nader said he believes that it’s important because of the way society has shifted in recent decades. He said that society expects different things from young adults today than 20 to 30 years ago.

“For example, if you think of something like college, it gives young people an opportunity to explore who they are, try out different majors and try different jobs,” Nader said. “But for young people coming out of the justice system, they don’t have any space really to do that. They’re expected, at the moment they turn 18, to be fully fledged adults when they come out of incarceration or after they’ve been arrested. They’re expected to get a job, find a home and build a social life, without any help from social institutions or any space to do that type of exploration.”

“It’s been kind of impacted by their experiences they’ve had, being incarcerated, being arrested or other experiences with the justice system,” Nader explained. “So, we’re doing these interviews right now, kind of taking a look at maturity and growth in this process.”

Based on this research, Nader hopes to develop a more refined theory to understand the mechanisms behind growing up in the process of maturation for young people that have been in the justice system. This research is to be able to build a survey and collect some quantitative data to understand the wide scope this problem has.

“The next step right now is kind of how we build out our survey and think about creating or accessing a sample that will represent a population, in particular young people coming out of the justice system in the state. There have definitely been some barriers in terms of trying to access that kind of population. We’re focused specifically on young adults between the ages of 18 and 29.”

His other research in policing examines program implementation and evaluation as well as community perceptions of police. He has partnered with the Baltimore Police Department and the University of Baltimore to evaluate the pilot program of the Neighborhood Policing Plan, a public safety initiative.

Nader earned both his Ph.D. and M.A. in Criminology & Criminal Justice from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and his B.S. in Psychology from Ohio State University.

To learn more about Department of Sociology and Criminology at Kent State, visit:

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POSTED: Thursday, February 15, 2024 03:58 PM
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2024 04:03 PM
Destiny Torres