The long road to Dr. Isenberg

Jim, who's wearing a newsboy cap and striped shirt, leans in to kiss his new bride Gail, who's smiling at the camera. They're both on bikes.

Newlyweds Jim M.Crim. ’69, Ph.D. ’08 and Gail ’70, ’74 Isenberg on Telegraph Ave. in 1969. Jim and Gail met at Berkeley.

The late School of Criminology led me to a professional career focused on reforming the criminal justice system. I had professors who had lived within reform efforts and were able to mentor my own interests. For example, I went to the 1968 Democratic Convention with Professor Gordon Misner to learn about policing at political events! One of my early mentors, grad student Mimi Silbert, has become a leading criminal justice reformer in this country as president of Delancey Street. The school taught me how to be critical of the system, but also how to change it. 

After college, I worked with my close friend Fred Cody to start the Berkeley Free Clinic. I also worked with then Sheriff Richard Hongisto, a criminology classmate, to create a community corrections program, as well as with SF Muni in the early 1980s, a time that required real change in the transit system. Finally, my criminology experience led me to direct a New York juvenile justice and child welfare reform agency for 20 years and create a “trust building” youth police program that has been implemented in 30 cities and internationally. I’ve been very involved with community policing and the development of future police leaders. 

Thirty years after the criminology school had closed, I returned to Berkeley to get a Ph.D.! Sandy Muir was a great guide as I embarked on this very challenging return. His support, coupled with the leadership of Don McQuade and Joe Duggan, helped me find a way to become an interdisciplinary doctorate student, take the orals exams, and then write the thesis. They were creative, open minded, and willing to bring me back into my beloved Berkeley world! I will forever appreciate their willingness to “find a way” to make me Dr. Isenberg!

Berkeley was a center of my academic life, but more importantly, it provided the knowledge to enable me to contribute to real change in the criminal justice system. Important memories for this old guy! 

Jim, who is wearing his graduation cap and gown, hugs Gail. Sather Gate is in the background.

Gail accompanies Jim on Sproul Plaza on their way to his 2008 Ph.D. graduation ceremony at the Greek Theater. 

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