The VOICE-Buffalo Criminal Justice Task Force is working to overcome the history of abuses in the criminal justice process and to ensure that law enforcement, adjudication, and criminal corrections are equitable for all. Our current campaigns focus on Bail Reform and the implementation of a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program in Erie County. We are partnering with the Erie County Restorative Justice Coalition to create Peace Hubs (pictured above) and promote Restorative Practices.
Originally pioneered in Seattle, Washington and implemented in Albany, NY, LEAD is a pre-arrest diversion program that enables individuals who have committed minor offenses to find help in the community rather than being cast into the criminal justice system. By using a harm reduction method, the program can bring healing, change lives, and save tax dollars!
As it is a pre-arrest diversion program, an individual entering LEAD must see a social worker within 30 days and cooperate with an assessment. The assessment often addresses whether a crime has been committed, but in some situations it does not address any harm that may have been caused within the community. For instance, minor vandalism, shoplifting, and fighting often involve harm being caused. In these situations, it is in the interest of the offender, victim, and the community to repair the damage or harm that occurred.
Peace Conferences can be used to mend the damage as well as to help the offender gain access to services and needed supports. That access can create a lasting life change. In Erie County, we are creating Peace Hubs in congregations and community groups that can supply Peace Conference facilitators and caring individuals. This will help the offender build a secure position in the community over a period of at least six months. Incorporating this approach will ultimately allow our LEAD program to accept a wider range of cases, help individuals successfully complete the program, and ultimately strengthen the community.
VOICE-Buffalo is partnering with the #FREEnewyork campaign of Just Leadership USA, along with a coalition of allied organizations across New York State, to end the injustices inflicted on people awaiting trial within the carceral system.
According to #FREEnewyork data, approximately 25,000 New Yorkers are confined to cells in county jails across the state. They are repeatedly subjected to violence, violations of their basic human rights, and racial inequities.
Though crime has steadily decreased, many county jails across the state have grown, some almost doubling in size. Outrageously, 67% of the individuals held in county jails have not been convicted and thus are legally innocent while they await trial. Too many innocent people are experiencing abuse and being denied their Constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial because of New York’s unethical bail, speedy trial, and discovery laws.
New York communities need and deserve bail reform! In order to change the system, local action is crucial, especially if we are committed to ending mass incarceration. We must work together to reform our bail, speedy trial, and discovery laws.
To get involved in either of these campaigns, please contact our organizer, Heron Simmonds, at email@example.com.