A Q&A with Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Madhuri Sharma

A Q&A with Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Madhuri Sharma

Name: Madhuri Sharma

Title: Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice

Education and Degrees:

Bachelor of Laws

Master of Laws in Criminal Justice

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

Doctor of Criminal Justice (Anticipated 2024)


Visit the Wilson College criminal justice program page. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in criminal justice, and how did this path lead you to Wilson?

My career choice sprouted from my upbringing in a neighborhood inhabited by criminal justice professionals such as judges, magistrates, public prosecutors, police officers, etc. I found myself increasingly interested in interactions with all the criminal justice stakeholders and fascinated with the power, authority, and decision-making aspects that came along with the profession. After getting into the legal profession, I began to understand the complexities of the legal world, and I wanted to bring about change especially for underrepresented minorities such as women.

I came to Wilson because the Criminal Justice program was in its early infancy and there was exceptional faculty and administrative support for its growth. The overwhelming, meaningful, and welcoming ambience of the College was simply irresistible for me. I am proud to be a part of the Wilson College community.

Can you share a pivotal moment in your career that deeply impacted your perspective on criminal justice?

A moment came during my presentation of a research paper at the World Criminology Congress in the year 2016. Immediately after I finished presenting, a professor of criminology raised a query about the plight of the defendants, especially those languishing in jails due to their inability to arrange for hefty bail bonds. Pondering over their financial helplessness, I realized that many defendants were waiting in jails before they had been found guilty. Therefore, I resolved to focus on the reduced reliance or elimination of cash bail bonds for my dissertation.

What is a common misconception about working in criminal justice that you often encounter?

A common misconception is that true justice is served only by inflicting harsh penalties on those found guilty. The prefix “criminal” attached to the word “justice” has a biasing tendency. It leads us to think that criminals must be punished rather than helped or rehabilitated; moreover, the criminal justice system should provide justice to not just the victim but the accused, since our adversary system relies on the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.”

What guiding principles have you followed in your career, especially when faced with ethical dilemmas?

My father once told me that the path to justice is never an easy one. Following his advice in my career, whenever I have encountered ethical dilemmas, my instant reaction is to not jump to hasty generalizations or conclusions about situations or people. I deal, react, and respond to people based on the Three Principles (Child, parent, and adult ego state) envisioned by Eric Berne in his book – “Games People Play.” The insight into our own patterns of  behavior and communication offered via these principles has always helped me to face all ethical dilemmas. Being a teacher, I know that I must engage students from diverse backgrounds and needs. Thus, many times I think with my heart and feel with my head. Though, I must say that every day is a learning experience for me.

Could you give an example of how classroom discussions or projects lead to deeper understanding or transformative learning experiences?

I encourage students to ask questions then answer the queries using real-life experiences. I remember in-person interactions with many inmates in jail made me much more empathetic than I was earlier. Experiential learning is always fruit bearing and I hope to provide similar experiences to my students as I become more familiar with Wilson and the Chambersburg community.

How do you prepare students to understand and respect the diverse backgrounds and experiences they will encounter in their professional lives?

Being an Indian settled in the U.S., I can very well understand the challenges of interacting with students from diverse backgrounds. Listening with an unprejudiced mind, loving heart, smiling face, and welcoming gestures are the basic strategies I use. Expressing curiosity as a learner, a fellow traveler, and as a group member smooths  all the potential bumps on the road to effective and meaningful communication.

What are your aspirations for the future of the Criminal Justice program and how do you envision the program evolving to meet the changing needs of society?

We have been helping our students develop strong theoretical and qualitative foundations. I would like to see our program branch out towards a more quantitative side of research. More specifically, I would like to combine theory with practice by introducing courses such as Research Methods, GIS (Geographic Information System), and others, that will help students develop skills that will set them apart in the job market.

How can students make the most of their time in the Criminal Justice program at Wilson College?

I try to encourage students to participate more in classes and be a part of every College event with an open mindset. I would also like to encourage students to recommend relevant and/ or necessary changes to nurture the Criminal Justice program to its highest potential. Interning with local criminal justice agencies and other community organizations, students can apply their academic knowledge in the real world and contribute towards making Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All) an achievable goal.

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