Jennifer Sargent, a visiting associate professor of writing for the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric and the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, has been appointed chair of the New Hampshire Adult Parole Board. She started her new position on Jan. 15, succeeding outgoing chair Donna Sytek.
“I would like to thank Chairman Sytek for her years of dedication and service to the parole board, and I’m excited to designate Jennifer as the new chairman,” said Gov. Chris Sununu in his announcement last month. “With her deep experience in the criminal justice system as a judge, public defender, and prosecutor, I am confident Jennifer will usher in a new era at the parole board.”
Before coming to Dartmouth in 2012, Sargent was an associate professor of law at Vermont Law School. In New Hampshire, she has been managing attorney for the Grafton and Coos County public defenders’ offices, a district court judge, and the state’s chief prosecutor in attorney discipline cases.
As chair of the parole board, Sargent says, she’ll work toward a “culture of consistency” that improves communication about parolees across state agencies. “It is not standardized,” she says. “As an initial front-burner issue, I want to make sure that the parole board members get all the information that they possibly can about inmates when we consider giving them parole for the first time.”
Sargent also wants to help develop standard procedures and policies derived from evidence-based practices.
“Everything I’ve done in the court system and as an educator has taught me about listening to various viewpoints, critically studying evidence with goals and strategies in mind. I wouldn’t be good at any of this without all the experience I’ve had in government, courtrooms, and classrooms,” she says.
Sargent expects her work in state government to benefit from her scholarship and teaching, and vice versa. “Being at Dartmouth, I’ve been able to have the time and energy, in terms of course planning and research for my writing, to study the effects of incarceration and successful re-entry into society. So now I’m in a position to put all that into practice.”
Conversely, Sargent hopes her job at the parole board will pave the way for students to conduct research in corrections policy, data analysis, and management.
“Public service is such hard work, but it is work that makes your community a better place. If you have privilege you are obligated to use it in some way to benefit others,” she says.
Charlotte Albright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.