RL Criminal Justice

Day Session Blog: Greg Pokriki, Invest Buffalo Niagara

What are the different facets of the criminal and legal systems in Buffalo; and the “lifecycle” of a crime from arrest to parole?

Throughout our day, we talked with many people from the different perspectives that make up the criminal and social justice system in Buffalo. We followed the lifecycle of a crime, from the police making an arrest, to the holding center for initial processing, to the courts and a chat with Erie County district attorney John Flynn to see litigation of those crimes, and ending with re-entry programs offered by Peaceprints of WNY and oasis services from Family Justice Center of WNY.

What crimes and issues are most prevalent in Buffalo and WNY?

Drug related crimes are prevalent in Buffalo and Western New York. Gang activity is an issue criminal justice officers are constantly dealing with, and specifically the ever-changing dynamics of family loyalties, feuds, and geographies throughout Buffalo.

What is the face and voice to “the system” of criminal justice, for both offenders and enforcement?

Often the face of the system is Erie County district attorney Flynn, who spoke to us about the media relations problem in criminal justice, when he and other leaders are often only seen on television news delivering bad news which can sew distrust within the most impacted communities in Buffalo.

What about this day impacted you the most?

I was personally struck by the sheer size of the criminal justice system. To see judges hearing over 100 cases a day, public defense attorneys often overworked, and police staff short of workers, it was clear to me just how difficult of a challenge we’re facing as we attempt to improve. There are many issues, and you’re even seeing that conversation being had at the federal level with criminal justice reform debates, but it’s hard to really understand the vast impact the system has on so many lives, including those on both sides of the spectrum.

How can we, as leaders in the community, work to improve Criminal and Social Justice in WNY?

Our first and greatest role is to spread the word of the programs that are working daily to make a difference.

Based on your day today, what is the biggest challenge in CSJ in Buffalo today?

I think the biggest issue is tackling the breadth of the system. We heard several small, anecdotal stories of those in the system going out of their way to better a difficult situation. And while those are so important, they’re drops in the bucket of the issues that plague the entire system—including racial discrimination, irrelevant parole restrictions, community distrust, and so many others.

Additional thoughts or take-away’s?

Thank you to every person that spoke or opened their doors to our class! Our class cannot wait to use this knowledge to help Make Buffalo Better.