Throughout this semester I have participated in a few criminal justice community engagement events outside of class. These events include two panels and one presentation. The first panel involved many criminal justice related field employees who described who they are and what their role in the field is. The second engagement was called the Offender panel. During this presentation; offenders who served a prison sentence or still currently are serving their sentence were brought in to talk about what they did, how they feel about it, and what the future looks like for them.
The final engagement I participated in was a presentation with a few representatives such as the districts DA and the DAs assistant. This panel shed light on the victims of violent crimes and how they choose to cope during the criminal justice process.
The first engagement was known as a corrections panel. This panel brought in several members of the community who work in this part of the criminal justice system.
They discussed their role in a prisoners life after they are released from prison and enter their parole or probation. This panel connects to class because they discussed parole heavily and one corrections officer discussed what life in prison was like. He had been working in the jail system for many years, so he provided his insight on what conditions were really like. We watched a film in class about a prison in Miami which was a little more than the officer described but many similarities could be made.
I didnt really know what happened after an inmate was released from prison, so this engagement really expanded my knowledge on the subject.
The second panel I found to be the most interesting. This panel brought in five or six prisoners that have either been released from prison or are still currently serving their term. These panel members look like any other citizen so there was no obvious stereotyping in the way a prisoner looks. In fact, I was surprised that some of the most normal looking individuals there were serving some of the longest sentences; including one person set with a life sentence. The crimes these people got locked up for ranged from drug dealing to murder. One women shared her story of being a drink driver. She drank too much one night and decided that she was still fit to drive so she drove home and along the way; crashed and killed a young teenage girl. This woman discussed the tremendous guilt she feels and how her decisions have affected not only the victims family but also her own family. Its sad to see one mistake completely change someones life but thats the way the criminal justice system works. The biggest surprise I received was in the form of the life sentence prisoner. He didnt really talk about the explicit details of his crime, but he did end up killing someone. Hes currently serving his lifetime sentence but has also had the chance to earn a college degree while locked up. Not only has he earned his bachelors and masters degree, but hes earned a doctorate degree while in prison. He also currently teaches at CTU in Colorado Springs, while serving his life sentence at the same time. This man is the epitome of a prison success story. In class we ‘ve talked about the programs that prisoners are offered while incarcerated, but I didnt realize that a prisoner is able to get a doctorate degree and still work for the government even though they are not out of prison. Its really interesting to see how schooling in prison is actually possible. The other past inmates talked about their experiences in prison after they had been caught for various reasons such as possession of drugs. It did not seem very exciting at all and definitely discourages me from ever considering commenting a crime that would land me there. Overall this panel definitely related to class in one obvious way. The first connection I noticed were the inmates themselves. In our in class discussions about the criminal process/ trial, we learned what happens once a criminal is caught. The inmates at the panel walked us through exactly what happened once they were caught and it was almost exactly the same as what we learned about.
The third and final engagement I went to was called the Victims Perspective Panel. During this panel a few members from the districts DA office; including the DA and her assistant came to talk to us about what a crime is like from the victims point of view. She started off by taking about what cases she ‘s worked on and giving us a brief background on the crime that was committed. That wasn ‘t really the point of the panel though, the point of the panel was to explain everything the victim or victims of a violent crime go through. The DA explained that sometimes the victims like to take the investigation into their own hands if they don ‘t feel the criminal justice system is doing enough. She told us about one case where the father of the victim started his own investigation because he was not getting the answers he wanted. Next, the assistant DA discussed how they prepare a victim for the criminal trial. This process ties directly hand in hand with the court process lectures weve had in class. The criminal trial can be a very difficult process to have to go through, but understanding whats going on can greatly ease the stress thats put on the victim. In class, we learned what happened to the perpetrator but we did not really discuss how the victim feels throughout this time.
Overall these engagements taught me a lot about the criminal justice system, I learned what happens when a criminal is caught, what prison is like, what happens once a prisoner is released, and finally what the victim feels throughout all of this. All of these events give me a better understanding of the criminal trial and the criminal justice system in general.
I personally think these engagements were very informative and worthwhile. Im very intrigued by the subject and enjoy learning more about each aspect of the criminal justice system. These engagements provided a lot of insight into this new world to me, and Im very glad I took the time to sit down and listen to watch these speakers had to stay about.