Friday, February 17, 2017
Today I had the opportunity to tour the Hennepin County Jail with several others, which was incredibly eye-opening experience. The only other facility I have ever toured was the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center, which actually had a few surprising similarities to the County Jail. The way most of the living quarters are divided in sections, with the individual rooms attached to a larger shared space, was similar. Both facilities have also taken a lot of precautions to ensure the safety of those in their care. They use a number of different factors when determining room/ section assignments. They have protocols in place for handling medical emergencies, both mental and physical.
What surprised me about the jail though, was exactly how clean, quiet, and orderly everything was. For some reason, I was completely expecting something else when we walked in. Everything though, from the booking area to the kitchen to the living quarters, was clean and quiet. I think we missed some of the disturbances that took place earlier in the morning, plus everyone was in their individual rooms for “quiet time” after lunch, but it was still definitely not what I was picturing when we began the tour!
This tour will certainly change the way I view the defendants who come into court from now on. There is something about seeing the emptiness of the cells, the space they have to share with several dozen others, the sterilized and medical feel to the spaces. This is the dreary environment. Yet, as the employee who gave the tour said, many receive better nourishment, medical services, and housing at the jail than when they are any where else. Many of their lives are so much more difficult than I could ever possibly imagine.
Friday, February 10, 2017
There were no victims in the two courtrooms monitored today. I did notice that, as during the 30 years I spent as a correction agent, the judges seem overly trustful of anything the defendants say or promise. My observation back in the day, which has not changed based on my observations this week is that judges had insufficient or no training in human behavior, particularly in the realm of personality disorder, and that as long as they fail to see things from the victims point of view, in addition to the defendants, they will inequitably identity with the defendants. There was nothing but respect- plenty of encouraging “atta boys”, but precious little skepticism. They could also benefit from an alternative point of view about the role of chemicals in criminal behavior, as I suspect they believe that, once sober they can be trusted to not re offend. I was never happier, as a corrections agents then when someone turned their life around, but I also did not trust anyone- nor wonder how much exposure judges get to crime victims in general, e.g. CEU classes. Something to reduce their naivety.
Friday, September 2, 2016
The victim in the Kelton case was very agitated and (though she was not allowed to speak) made it clear by shaking her head that she did not agree with the allegations made. She was spoken for for from by all parties- the prosecutor mentioned physical evidence of assault, the defense mentioned her request for the charges to be dropped and asked that she be allowed to speak, and the judge mentioned she may have battered women’s syndrome. I think seeing her made me realize what a complex position victims are in, especially when you are not able to speak for yourself.
Friday, August 26, 2016
Interning for WATCH has provided me with a great experience and a new outlook on our Criminal Justice System as a whole. Prior to being apart of WATCH I had been to Hennepin County Courthouse and Ramsey County Courthouse one time each. During the past three months at WATCH I have been to each courthouse multiple times and have been able to view similarities and differences between the two.
Being able to experience these different courthouses, judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors was astonishing. It is difficult to put into words the different ways these many people can effect the court process in the grand scheme of things as well as looking at them from a smaller perspective. The role of defense attorneys grabs my attention the most. There are some instances where I am truly baffled that someone wants to try and defend someone who committed such a heinous crime, but at the end of the day, it’s their job. Seeing the determination many of the defense attorneys and prosecutors have makes me have faith and hope for the future of our Criminal Justice System as well as society as a whole.
Being a Criminology/Criminal Justice Major with a Minor in Psychology and Forensic Science I have been unsure what I want to do upon graduation. Though spending 200 or so hours this summer familiarizing myself with the courts system, I have concluded that I don’t think I could ever be an attorney. From the start that wasn’t my top choice, but after seeing the wit and quickness an attorney must uphold for the benefit of their client, I believe I am not cut out to be a prosecutor or defense attorney. However, in realizing that I am not interested in being an attorney, my views to other possible career paths has opened up. Watching Victim Advocates console their clients, being a part of behind the scenes work that WATCH provides the system, as well as doing my own research on the BCA and other agencies has opened my eyes to a whole surplus of options for my future career. I have reached an understanding that as my graduating days are approaching within a year and a half I want to be apart of something that will benefit both sides of the Criminal Justice System, not just part of it.
Viewing WATCH as a whole, I commend how things are ran day to day. As an intern, it was reassuring knowing that I wasn’t going to be thrown into the courthouse by myself on the first day and have to learn the ropes myself. Having that assistance the first day and everyday after that from the other interns, volunteers, and supervisors was something that every good organization should have. Walking into different courtrooms having bailiffs, attorneys, judges, clerks, etc. know who you are and talk to you because you have a Red Clipboard is another positive aspect of this organization.
Looking back at my time here at WATCH I am unable to think of anything within the organization that is negative or needs changing/adjusting. I am proud to say I was able to intern for such an incredible non-profit organization and hope to volunteer here in the future as well as recommend classmates and peers to volunteer/intern as well. I truly believe that no matter what you want to do with your education, if it’s something within the Criminal Justice System, getting yourself in a courtroom setting on multiple occasions will benefit you immensely. I am thankful for my time here and hope to return in the near future.