Jessica Rubinski

Criminal Justice 2010
Youth Services Coordinator at Lee County Human and Veteran Services

Most of us can admit that when we make a negative choice, we want the opportunity to make it right. Learning from a young age that our actions can be met with adverse consequences, many of us, as youths, never dealt with legal discipline. While fear of a ruined future may exist for youths who’ve committed crimes, Jessica Rubinski with the Neighborhood Accountability Board explains there are programs available to help youths and their families repair the harm.

“The opportunity to continue to work and aid youth in making positive choices is and always will be a blessing,” Rubinski said.

Early in her career, while as a prevention specialist at Southwest Florida Addiction Services (now SalusCare), Rubinski was looking to further her social service skills. Enrolling at Hodges University, to work on her master’s degree studying criminal justice in the behavioral track, gave her a chance to expand her expertise. A master’s degree would complement her bachelor’s degree in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Living close to Hodges University, she says, “I heard great things about the criminal justice program. The behavioral track was very attractive, as it enabled me to continue studying criminal justice in a more in-depth concept and by establishing an understanding of at-risk and deviant behaviors.”

Needing a school that offered flexible scheduling, and what she refers to as, “at your own pace” style, she enrolled in Hodges’ master’s program in 2008.

For two years, she balanced a full-time job while attending school full time, often making it difficult for personal time; however, her commitment to learning never wavered, and it was evidenced by her achieving summa cum laude.

“Working with juveniles in court diversion and drug court programs, I have developed a passion to understand youth who come through the juvenile justice system,” she explained.

Reflecting on a professor she had in the program, she said, “I have often been known to ‘push the envelope’ when it comes to researching or having discussions/debates. I am not afraid to explore topics that others shy away from and he [Dr. K] encouraged that.”

After earning her degree in 2010, Rubinski moved into the position of master level substance abuse clinician at Southwest Florida Addiction Services. Since then, she has achieved advanced positions in her career and now works for Lee County Human and Veteran Services.

Using her education and professional experience, she explains that her unwillingness to retreat from topics others do not wish to approach “helps in how I approach youths and their families within the criminal justice field. It also helps me to keep an open mind when facing cultural diversities. When others see that it is okay to voice beliefs and views but also be receptive to different beliefs and views, it can be quite easy to connect and help. This helps me grow as a person, too.”

In her work at the Neighborhood Accountability Board, Rubinski meets with the youth and his/her family to ensure they are prepared to go before the board. Scheduling and conducting conferences with “three main stakeholders,” the victim, community and the offender, they establish a case plan for the youth to repair the harm to the stakeholders. While working with the youth to complete the case plan, Rubinski also facilitates a Moral Reconation Therapy Group (MRT). “MRT is a peer-run 12-step therapy group and the second diversion program under youth services. It aids youth in becoming more aware of their choices morally, and helps to decrease recidivism,” she said.

Watching them learn from their negative actions and work to repair the harm they caused, she admits is the most rewarding part of the job. “The Neighborhood Accountability Board really helps the community heal and brings people together.”

“I believe that every situation can help shape who we are. The professors, staff and fellow students [at Hodges] helped challenge me to take my ideas and expand them. The behavioral track with criminal justice studies provided me with the ability to approach situations with compassion and understanding while maintaining a fair and unbiased atmosphere.”

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