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Administration of justice instructor’s book 'Through a Convict's Eyes' published

LaVarr McBride
LaVarr McBride
7/17/2013 —

A book that provides a different perspective of the criminal justice system, co-written by LaVarr McBride, instructor in administration of justice at Penn State New Kensington, was published in May by the Kendall Hunt Publishing Co.

"Through a Convict’s Eyes: An Overlooked View of the Criminal Justice System,” is a first-hand account of former prisoners who shed their pasts to become productive members of society. McBride challenges the conventional wisdom that those who have done time in prison will always be life’s failures, a belief that is often shared by the offenders themselves. McBride co-authored the book with Eric Wicklund, a convicted felon.

“Many offenders feel that the communities do not believe they can change, and the stigma of being a felon will always keep them from succeeding,” said McBride, who has worked in the field of criminal justice for 29 years. “An individual is not bound to the label of a felon."

Prior to his career in academia, McBride worked as a senior probation officer for the United State Probation Service. Wicklund was 39-years old and had spent half his adult life in prison when he was released to McBride’s supervision in 2000. After much contemplation, rumination and speculation between the two men, the supervisor-offender relationship evolved into a lifelong friendship. Since that serendipitous encounter, Wicklund has stayed out of prison for nearly 14 years.

“It was an exciting adventure to write a book with someone that I had on probation,” said McBride, who also served as a correctional officer on death row at Utah State Prison. “The fusing of the thoughts of a probation officer and a convicted felon provided a unique perspective of the current dynamic criminal justice system.”

Wicklund changed his life because of his willingness to accept full responsibility for his actions. He found strength in his wife, Denise, whom he met soon after he was released from prison. According to McBride, support is vital, and Eric and Denise’s relationship had a great impact on his success.

“Eric has completely changed his life because he believes in himself and has a wonderful support system in Denise,” McBride said. “He no longer needs the drugs and a life of crime to give him substance."

While Wicklund is the central character in the story, McBride details the rehabilitation of many other released prisoners. Accountability is a major theme throughout the book. McBride stresses that in order to change behavior, it is essential for felons to answer to their victims.

“I address the absolute need for offenders to be accountable to their victims,” said McBride, who came to the New Kensington campus from Weber State (Utah) University. “Those that are accountable are the most likely to succeed because they realize the harm they have caused to their victims. This is critical for success.”

A consultant for nine years, McBride has performed mediation between defense teams and victims in capital murder cases throughout the country. He continues to work with families in death penalty and violent crime cases. He addresses their needs and helps find answers to their questions.

“We must involve the victims more within the process and empower them to feel that they are being heard and respected,” McBride said.

The book is the first for McBride. He is contracted to write a second book on victimology, which is the study of the relationships between victims, offenders and the criminal justice system. “Finding Their New Normal,” will be published in 2014. He previously wrote a piece, “Officer Suicide,” for the National Federal Probation and Pretrial Services Association Publication in August 2000.

McBride earned his bachelor's degree in criminal justice at Weber State and a multidisciplinary master’s degree in sociology, public administration and economics at the Utah State University. He joined the campus faculty in 2011 and teaches upper- and lower-level administration of justice courses and specialized courses in serial murderers, interrogation and victimology.

In addition to his teaching load, McBride is the Administration of Justice coordinator and internship supervisor for the New Kensington campus, as well as for Penn State Shenango and Penn State Beaver. The three campuses share authorization to deliver the bachelor’s degree program. Courses are offered in a blended delivery at each campus via the classroom and online.

“I thoroughly enjoy the students at Penn State New Kensington,” McBride said. “This is a wonderful campus, and the students are great to work with.”

A native of Rexburg, Idaho, McBride resides in Beaver Borough with his wife, Carol. They have four sons: Mitchell, who is married to Jenny and has a daughter, Charley; Justin who has a daughter, Izabelle;  and Nathan and Nicholas.

For more information, contact McBride at lwm13@psu.edu.

For more about the book, visit http://www.kendallhunt.com/store-product.aspx?id=91955.

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