2017 Perspectives from the Field, Part V
Throughout the 2017 seminar year, the LNJ staff will ask class members to reflect on their experiences following the monthly two-day seminars. The perspectives will change each month to include a wide spectrum of view points and expertise.
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Lead NJ Seminar on Criminal Justice and Corrections,
June 7-8, 2017
Ewing & Trenton, NJ
By: Kyle Kudla
Howdy, Fellow 2017 LNJ-ers!
We’ve concluded our Criminal Justice Seminar and what did I learn? Well, certainly that our State Public Defenders are astute legal professionals and nothing like the clichéd caricatures that we often see portrayed in popular TV shows and movies. Also, fortunately, our maximum security prison is not even vaguely reminiscent of the facilities we’d seen in Shawshank Redemption and Oz (I may be dating myself with those references….look them up, Luke). Those are good things but it goes without saying that you’d still be best served not finding yourself in need of a good defense or entangled within our penal system. How best to avoid that? Stay off the weed, kids! It was astonishing to learn that the THC content of today’s marijuana is stratospheric compared to just a few decades ago. If mom and pop had this substance at Woodstock, it probably would have resembled more of a heavy metal mosh pit than the peaceful groove-fest that it was reported to be (as old as I am, even I wasn’t born in time to confirm what that atmosphere was like…maybe Mark will share some stories).
But, what of those who do find themselves on the wrong side of the law? The good news is that New Jersey is progressive in its attempts to improve all aspects of our judicial and corrections systems. Bail reform alone should have an immediate, positive impact on the lives of the suspected offenders of minor infractions. Combined with the results from the successful realization of the Community Court’s efforts and the reasonable compassion of our Juvenile Adjudicators there can be positive outcomes where previously, there may have been only despair. Talk about a true win-win, giving folks the opportunity to enhance the communities that they’ve offended, which by no small coincidence need a little TLC, as atonement for their actions is like rehabilitation squared. The offender and the community ultimately benefit and, potentially, for the long haul. Someone who successfully completed the program is going to be less likely to perpetrate another crime against a community that appreciates him and now also owns a piece of his pride. Of course, not all criminal acts boil down to a single choice. There are issues of addiction and mental illness to content with. To what degree do those factors mitigate the crime and how should sanctions be administered? The answers and solutions are not simple but based upon the small sampling that we’ve seen from our Criminal Justice system so far, our leaders are quite prepared to face the challenges.
All measures taken can help those in our society with the greatest need as well as help cut back on the overcrowding of our facilities. Anything that results in a legally fair outcome, potentially cuts down on our tax burden, and establishes a safer environment for both those being housed in our corrections facilities and the officers in charge of monitoring them is a step in the right direction. I’m definitely glad to have learned that New Jersey is marching in the right direction.