Professor Nicky Ali Jackson receives 2023 Heart of Indiana Torchbearer Award
Nicky Ali Jackson, professor of Criminal Justice and executive director for the Center for Justice and Post-Exoneration Assistance (CJPA) at Purdue University Northwest (PNW), was awarded the 2023 Heart of Indiana Torchbearer Award by the Indiana Commission for Women.
“I’m honored to be recognized for my work,” said Jackson. “It is a really proud moment for me. This award wouldn’t have happened without the support I received from my family, my project manager and the university, especially the Provost and the Chancellor.”
The Indiana Commission for Women serves to voice women’s needs, concerns and challenges, as well as celebrate their contributions and successes in the state of Indiana. The prestigious Heart of Indiana Torchbearer award honors a woman who has demonstrated a commitment to philanthropic service, social change and the spirit of hope. Jackson was recognized for her work as a victimologist and a women’s advocate.
Jackson was instrumental in the founding of the CJPA, an organization that helps to identify and eradicate miscarriages of justice and provide support to those who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. She has also been able to affect change in these areas through legislative reform. “I know as the executive director at CJPA we are making change in the state of Indiana,” said Jackson. “We’re not just talking about it, we’re rocking it!”
For decades, Jackson has been an advocate in the areas of domestic violence and women’s issues. She has hosted Mardi Bra events in an effort to collect new bras and feminine products for donation to a local agency that works with the unhoused population. In addition, she created Hatta Girl, a panel of female speakers who meet regularly to share their experiences, insights and successes in managing the many hats they wear.
I know as the executive director at Center for Justice and Post-Exoneration Assistance we are making change in the state of Indiana. We’re not just talking about it, we’re rocking it!
The students in Jackson’s classes are able to take advantage of her experience and background as an advocate for change. “I take all of my experiences and bring them into my classroom,” said Jackson, who is also the academic advisor for the Criminal Justice Club at PNW. “I think it’s important to use real-life, real-world experiences and scenarios in my teaching.” In addition, Jackson provides students with the opportunity to learn beyond the classroom by interning or volunteering at CJPA where they work on legislative reform, investigate cases of wrongful conviction and provide post-exoneration assistance. “My students are active participants in making change,” she added.
The field of criminal justice wasn’t on Jackson’s radar as an undergraduate student at Ball State University; then she took an introductory class on the subject. “It was by accident,” explained Jackson. “It fit into my schedule and it changed my life. I was fascinated with the subject matter and fell in love with the material. I realized early on that I had found my calling.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, she went on to the University of Illinois at Chicago were she received a master’s degree in criminal justice and a doctorate in sociology with a concentration in deviance. For the last 33 years, Jackson has been a professor at PNW teaching in the areas of victimology, criminology, wrongful convictions, minority issues in criminal justice and ethics.