Monday, April 10, 2006

Reality Check

Well today began our first day of substantive work. We started the day by reporting to our assignment & were immediately redirected out the door to cover the local state court. What we saw there was definitely an eye opener. Initially we stationed ourselves in the rear of the Ct room so as to take notes & make observations. What seemed conspicuous to me is how quickly the judge managed to blast through his docket. Obviously this is a reactive approach, necessary to the malaise & back-log of prosecution. Anyhow, w/ our a.m. so invested, we thereafter, thanks paid to a very hospital judicial clerk (Becky bruising), got the opportunity to sit w/ the judge (Dergigny) & fire off a little Q&A.
This session proved to be a very intensive education. Apparently, what is left of this judicial dist (the 4th) is a core group, substantially reduced in size, intent on righting this ship. Nevertheless, despite their best efforts I could discern a degree of pragmatism essentially attesting to what seems to be a daunting group of hurdles. Some staggering revelations are the facts that this Ct is simply relegated to 2 Ct rms, 2 days/wk, for 4 hrs a day. Invariably, this is an insufficient amt of time to dent the ever compounding inmate pop. However, so as not to paint too grim a picture, this is an improvement over the former Kangaroo Cts employed. We were told that the 4th Dist was originally relegated to practicing out of the actual prison itself. From there they'd commandeers the local Greyhound depot & aptly dubbed it 'Camp Greyhound.' Therefore, improvements are being made.
Furthermore, access to these inmates has also propel to be another challenge. The local prison, which had once housed appox 7000 inmates is now reduced to a mere 1500. And, as if all of this isn't enough, there has also emerged the issue of tainted evidence. Invariably, the flooding which'd submerged this city also consumed vast caches of evidence. In response, the Cts are adopting the controversial approach of permitting merely lab reports as admissible, in the absence of the actual physical evidence.
As you can likely imagine, all of this spells unconscionable delays. While everyone gropes for justice, it isn't always forthcoming. The basic inalienable right to a speedy trial has essentially become a luxury that this city can ill-afford to extend. In such a system, closure seems an impossibility; patience a necessity. Consider: a man gets incarcerated on a misdemeanors & remains so 'locked-up,' admist the more violent/compulsive offenders, for an indefinite period. While the reverberations have yet to echo, I suspect this will, if left unchecked, likely breed a new generation of criminals.

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