Alumni Spotlight: Robbin Bell

March 12, 2024

Photo of SCJ Alum Robbin BellRobbin Bell is a graduate from the MSU School of Criminal Justice and is currently a Correction Consultant with the State of Kentucky Department of Corrections, and a Correction Consultant/Accreditation Auditor with the American Corrections Association.

Can you tell us about life life before coming to MSU?

Born and raised in downtown Detroit, there were advantages as well as disadvantages in growing up in the heart of the city. Living in the Woodbridge District, all within walking distance, Wayne State University was to the right of me, Cass Corridor was directly centered down the road, Detroit’s former Tiger Stadium was to the left of me, with the infamous Jeffrey’s Projects directly seated in my backyard.

As a product of Detroit’s Model City Neighborhood youth programs, and a product of the Upward Bound Program, my upbringing benefited and clearly embraced Detroit’s eclectic mixed melting pot of cultural opportunities that enriched its environment of inner city and suburban art, science, music and museum districts.

Educated in the Detroit Public School System, a 1976 graduate of Cass Technical High School, reared in a strong, structured Christian family unit, enthralled in an environment of both daily negatives and positives, it was clearly obvious at an early age that survival skills naturally were a part of my inner being.

The atmosphere at the time was adventurous, exciting, and also sadly to say, extremely dangerous. Exposure heavily impacted even the youngest to one of the city’s most volatile time periods. There was the constant fear showing hundreds of missing children’s faces displayed on the side of milk cartons, there was the 1967 race riots. At the time, the city was still reeling off of the tail end of its long-term heroin crisis, and the vicious gang and dog fights were only a few of the destructive episodes that was crippling Detroit’s community. The struggle was real. For some, living life and not being a statistic would never be an option.

Also, at the time unbeknownst to me, another fierce crisis was looming just around the corner, its street name was called, “crack”. Signs of destruction was showing up everywhere. With God’s grace, mercy and protection, I finally settled myself into understanding that I knew it was time. And with that, I made the decision to “get out”. I then enrolled in MSU.


What interested you in coming to MSU?

While in high school I participated in a number of Upward Bound activities that included several offsite college visits and presentations. MSU was among the number of visits. The resources, financial assistance, and opportunities MSU offered far outweighed what the other college/university representatives had presented. Additional communication presented a student friendly environment, and a final offer of a free four (4) year tuition and housing education sealed my decision to attend MSU.


What interested you in a career of Corrections?

Initially, I entered MSU as a Political Science major. While in my first semester of studying, I became interested in the School of Criminal Justice program. Upon further research and several discussion sessions, I discovered (at the time) MSU was ranked among the top leading university’s within the country specializing in the field of Criminal Justice. Instructors such as: Robert Trojanowicz, Dave Kalinich, and Zolton Ferency were listed among the country’s most notable experts and forerunners. With these notable scholars, I took every class and every opportunity that was provided to me.

I then continued to follow information provided, and by the second semester of my freshmen year switched my major to MSU’s School of Criminal Justice. Immediately upon taking classes I was mentored and provided a number of Correctional internships (State of Michigan-Dept of Corrections Parole Board and the New Way Inn Halfway House, Inc- a privately run 71 bed male halfway house). Continued interest in 1) helping to change a badly broken system, and 2) providing help to those returning back to society propelled my career into what it is today. During this time period I also had the privilege of working as a student assistant with the State of Michigan Senate and House of Representative which I gained knowledge of the legislative process.


What has been the most fulfilling part of your career?

Working as a Correctional Consultant and an Accreditation Auditor traveling throughout the country in all 50 states, using all of the education, training, hands on work experience/knowledge and life learned lessons from my 46+ years in the field of Corrections.


What are some of the most important skills for someone to have/learn to have a successful career in Corrections?

Be fair, truthful, credible, a good listener at all times. Also maintain the characteristics to serve as a mediator, to establish a team player mindset, maintain a well-balanced life (outside and in), be flexible, a continued life learner, having a mindset to think out of the box, be empathetic and clearly continuing to always “treat people like you want to be treated”, with dignity and respect.


How do you feel that the School of Criminal Justice has helped you throughout your career?

I enrolled into MSU, a product of the Upward Bound Program in 1976. I chose to closely follow the curriculum and mentoring opportunities provided, at the time, by my Advisor and Instructors. Those resources and opportunities afforded me a variety of options in diversifying as well as sharpening my skills. These resources and opportunities also provided me with a strong foundation as I entered in at the ground level of the Criminal Justice field. As a result, I continued to excel within my career and was acknowledged in 1986 during a formal ceremony honoring a number of Upward Bound Alumni and myself as TRIO Achiever Award recipients.


Do you have any advice for current students interested in a career in Corrections?

Stay focused, think out of the box, finds ways to better understand and correct the broken criminal justice system, become diversified, continue to be a lifelong learner, speak less, listen more and then take action, and ensure to join outside organizations to assist and serve as networking opportunities, resources.


Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Understand the importance in learning about Mental Health, Behavioral Issues and the overall impact it has on the Criminal Justice system throughout the country and around the world. Always assist and continue to serve and give back to others.