Dr. Matthew B. Johnson, M.A. ’82, Ph.D. ’84, a graduate of the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, is on the faculty of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center. Throughout his career, he has been active as a scholar and advocate in matters related to psychology and law.
Associate Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice & CUNY Graduate CenterFavorite professors: “Gail Petersen; she was my advisor and chaired my dissertation. I was her teaching assistant/research assistant. I was also very close to Gordon Derner. I admired him for creating and sustaining a unique program. After I graduated, I developed a very gratifying relationship with George Stricker through visits and correspondence.”
Mentor: “Duncan Walton, Ph.D. ’56, who was the first African-American to graduate from Derner. Once I graduated, Duncan began advising me on establishing my private practice and getting connected with the professional community in New Jersey.”
Advice for current students: “Psychology provides you with tremendous options to put together the type of career you choose.”
As an undergraduate student, Dr. Matthew B. Johnson, M.A. ’82, Ph.D. ’84 never took a psychology course. He was introduced to psychology after he earned his bachelor’s degree and had entered the workforce as a mental health technician on a psychiatric unit. His interest was sparked.
He was admitted to the Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi after earning a master’s degree in psychology from Montclair State College in New Jersey. “It was a ‘dream come true’ when I was accepted because it was one of the most competitive Ph.D. admissions in the country at that time,” said Dr. Johnson. “I chose Adelphi because of its reputation for graduating African-Americans with Ph.D.s. I was told the Institute graduated 25 percent of all Blacks with doctorates in clinical psychology the year prior to my admission. Gordon Derner was presiding as dean at the time.”
Dr. Johnson’s interest in psychology and law stemmed from his knowledge of Kenneth Clark’s expert witness work. During his clinical psychology internship, he received training and supervision in the assessment of violence and forensic consultation. “I learned a lot about the interface of psychology and the law as a result of that experience,” he said. After graduating from Adelphi, he obtained further training in forensic psychology at the Rutgers Law School, Urban Legal Clinic.
Throughout his career, Dr. Johnson has been active as a scholar and advocate in matters related to psychology and law. In 1992 he published (with Luis Torres) “Miranda, Trial Competency, and Hispanic Immigrant Defendants,” one of the first scholarly papers on cultural competence in forensic assessment.
In 1996 he published “Examining Risks to Children in the Context of Parental Rights Termination Proceedings” (NYU Review of Law and Social Change). It was subsequently cited as authoritative in a New Jersey Supreme Court decision. In 2003 the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus of the Post Graduate Center presented Dr. Johnson with the Frantz Fanon Memorial Award. On this occasion he delivered the lecture titled, “The Central Park Jogger Case: Police Coercion and Secrecy in Interrogation,” which was subsequently published in the Journal of Ethnicity and Criminal Justice. In 2006 Dr. Johnson published “Secondary Trauma Related to State Executions” (Journal of Psychiatry & Law), a summary of his hearing testimony before the New Jersey Department of Corrections. At the time Dr. Johnson was actively involved in the successful campaign to abolish the New Jersey death penalty. In 2007 he was named the “John Jay College of Criminal Justice Outstanding Teacher.” Dr. Johnson’s subsequent research has focused on interrogation, false confessions, and wrongful conviction. In 2013, he published “African-Americans Wrongly Convicted of Sexual Assaults Against Whites.” He recently developed and validated a research instrument to assess “Interrogation Expectations.”
“I’ve published with many of my students, both undergraduates and graduate students. I find collaborations with students beyond the classroom to be very rewarding,” he said. He serves on the faculty of John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center. He is involved in the teaching and training of undergraduates, master’s level and doctoral students. He introduced two new courses in the curriculum, “Interrogation and Confession” and “Wrongful Conviction.” He also serves on the National Board of the Association of Black Psychologists.
He has extensive experience as a forensic examiner and expert witness. He regularly consults on criminal cases in New York, New Jersey, and other states. “I find the consultation and expert witness work to be challenging and exciting,” he said. “Also there is the opportunity to influence decision making on critical issues.” He added he is most proud of his activism with regard to progressive, civil rights, and human rights issues.
Regarding his personal life, Dr. Johnson said, “I have been married more than 30 years to Christine Baker, Ph.D., whose company I still very much treasure. We raised two sons and in the past 10 years have made a home for my mother. Christine is also a psychologist. We enjoy traveling together and enjoy staying home together…I also enjoy cooking and listening to R&B music, a little gardening, writing, and daydreaming. I recently interviewed singer/songwriter Joe Bataan about his legendary career as an R&B and Salsoul artist.”
Dr. Johnson is grateful to the Derner Institute for providing an education that allowed him to construct a fulfilling career. “The Derner Institute gave me a foundation of independent thinking and practice as a psychologist that I am able to apply in a variety of professional contexts. I observed that Gordon Derner was very independent minded, with strong convictions, and his own vision. I admired that.”
Published June 2014
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