RL Criminal Justice Day


Day Session Blogger: Melissa Winkler, Winkler & Samuels

Talk about the different facets of the criminal and social justice systems in Buffalo.

There are criminals, victims, police, courts, and community support agencies. We were able to explore and understand how each group informs and effects another's experience.

Describe the "lifecyle" of a crime from arrest to parole.

The officers arrest the criminal, there is an initial court appearance after the arrest, there is the possibility of preliminary hearings, the trial itself, sentencing following the trial, serving the sentence, and probation as the criminal is re-integrated into society.

How is the drug crisis affecting our community, from a criminal, legal and societal perspective?

What can we as citizens and business leaders, do to help improve the situation? The drug crisis is comparable to someone suffering from disease or cancer. It is not isolated in its effects to only the drug user, but to their family and friends as they become trapped by their addition. The addiction leads to increasingly destructive behaviors that often have unfortunate ends. We need to spread awareness of the dangers of drug abuse, support recovery programs to rehabilitate addicts, promote education initiatives to prevent abuse from beginning, and re-think the over-perscription of opioids and other drugs as pain relieving cure-alls.

Discuss gun violence with law enforcement professionals. Share the tactics and strategies for how to proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event.

The first response should be to try and run away from the active shooter, if you are unable to run, you need to hide in a room on the wall that is the same as the entrance to the room. Don't leave any signs of life in the room. If you cannot do either of those two things, then as a last resort you must try and defend yourself against the attacker.

What about this day impacted you the most?

The strongest impact on me was the final speaker at the family justice center. There was a woman who was forced to change her identity because of the horrific experience being physically and mentally abused by her boyfriend. The told a heartbreaking story about her abuse and how nobody stepped in to save her, and while being attached had the realization that she had to save herself, and did. It was heartbreaking and inspiring and left me in awe of her strength to endure such pain, and what's more, share her story with us.

How can we, as leaders in the community, work to improve criminal justice in WNY?

Education regarding criminal justice issues needs to be something that people know about more. Prior to this experience, I did not know very much about the criminal justice process. I think if more people were aware of everything that happens in the criminal justice system, we would be more empathetic as a society, and might behave better towards one and another.

Additional thoughts or take-away's?

It was eye-opening to see all the different roles and how they are part of the entire process of the criminal justice system. The biggest thing for me was seeing the victims of the crimes, and what they have to go through to recovery a sense of normalcy in their lives. Their strength was inspiring and humbling.