Posted on March 28, 2018 by Jana Schwartz

Dr. Dylan Jackson, assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice , is a developmental and health criminologist who studies the link between health factors and criminal and antisocial behaviors across the life course. He hopes his research will shed light on health, crime and criminal justice policy. Jackson was recently awarded the President’s Distinguished Award for Research Achievement.

Photo of Dylan Jackson

(March 29, 2018) — Dylan B. Jackson is an assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Criminal Justice. He is a Fellow of the SLU Health Criminology Research Consortium and a research associate at the UTSA Institute for Health Disparities Research.

Jackson is a developmental and health criminologist who studies the link between health factors and criminal and antisocial behaviors across the life course. His work has appeared in journals such as The Journal of Pediatrics, Social Science & Medicine, Prevention Science, Preventive Medicine, Journal of Criminal Justice and Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

We sat down with Professor Jackson this week to learn about his research.

You always have lots of projects going on at once. What's exciting you the most these days?

It's certainly a challenge to narrow it down to one particular project! In general, what excites me the most is the work I am doing with members of the Health Criminology Research Consortium (HCRC) at Saint Louis University, including director Michael G. Vaughn, that explores the promotion of various facets of health during early development (e.g., health behaviors, health resources) as a crime prevention tool.

This is an area of inquiry that, to date, has largely been overlooked by criminologists. This research has a host of implications for theory, policy and health/medical practice that appeal to the public and a broad audience of policymakers and practitioners (e.g., criminal justice practitioners, social workers, psychologists, public health advocates, educators, physicians and so forth).

One project in particular aims to synthesize much of my body of work while providing a framework that can guide future research in this area. I am currently finalizing a manuscript proposing a conceptual framework that cross-fertilizes the developmental/life-course criminological paradigm with robust findings on socioeconomic and racial disparities in health. The manuscript proposing the framework should be published in the coming months.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

My hope is that my research will shed light on the interconnections between health, crime and criminal justice involvement across the life course and, in doing so, underscore that health policy and criminal justice policy are inherently intertwined.

I firmly believe that theoretical and empirical integration across the social and health sciences can revolutionize the field of criminology and enhance its policy relevance. My hope as a developmental criminologist is that we start to envision the ways that facilitating the health of children at the earliest stages of life can help to prevent crime and that we continue to take steps to promote child health, particularly among at-risk subsets of the population.

Have you had any mentors?

I am inspired most by scholars who jettison disciplinary boundaries in an effort to understand the complex origins of crime and promote social justice in every sense. In recent years, Michael G. Vaughn in the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University, the director of the HCRC and a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, has been incredibly supportive of my work and has expanded my view of what the field of criminology can become in the coming years.

What is the one thing going on in your field that nobody's talking about?

There is a lot of excellent criminological work that doesn't get very much airtime because it is multidisciplinary and/or at the fringes of the discipline, which is unfortunate.

For instance, Graham Ousey's (2017) recent work, "Crime is Not the Only Problem: Examining Why Violence & Adverse Health Outcomes Covary Across Large U.S. Counties", is an excellent example of criminological research with broad, highly relevant implications for policy and social justice. Despite being published in a reputable criminological journal, it has not received the attention it deserves.

Thankfully, some multidisciplinary studies are beginning to receive more attention among criminologists in their most renowned publication outlets, including studies on the role of traumatic brain injury, neuropsychological deficits, and early lead poisoning in criminal trajectories. Even so, there has always been a certain psychological appeal to specialization and more narrowly-defined parameters for our discipline which, in my view, needs to change if we are going to make broader impacts in the real world. In the real world, our most salient problems as a nation and as a human race necessarily bleed into each other. The more fully the top criminological journals and associations embrace this reality, the more relevant our field will become to policy and social practice across sectors. We are certainly making progress as a field, but we still have a long way to go.

What do you think is the biggest challenge researchers in your field are facing?

One of the biggest challenges criminologists are facing is capturing and maintaining the attention of key stakeholders whose interests go beyond the criminal justice system. Importantly, accomplishing this task should be of great interest to criminologists, as it can help them to more effectively address the issues that deeply concern them: crime and violence.

To elaborate, social workers, psychologists, physicians (e.g., pediatricians), and public health officials regularly come into contact with people at risk of crime, involved in crime, or with a history (personally or vicariously) of criminal justice contact. Consequently, these professionals can play an important role in crime prevention and intervention efforts.

What makes your department at UTSA unique?

A number of factors make the UTSA Department of Criminal Justice unique. First, we are housed in the College of Public Policy, along with the Departments of Demography, Social Work, and Public Administration. Our connection to the Policy Studies Center and our downtown location uniquely position us to reach out to policymakers and effect change. Second, we have a highly eclectic group of scholars that embrace multidisciplinary approaches to the study of crime and criminal justice, including scholars with expertise in health, genetics, psychology, law and legal socialization, policing, victimization and more. In my view, this strengthens our department and allows our research to reach a wide audience and make a significant impact. Finally, we are a passionate, energetic and highly productive faculty whose goal is to elevate UTSA to top-tier status.

Ingrid Wright

— Jana Schwartz