Building a Case for Justice

Building a Case for Justice

April 2, 2018 Stories from ACE 0

I have been fortunate to serve the last three years as the Bonner Service Leader at the District Attorney of Albany’s Office in some capacity. This year I am at the main office serving alongside Victim Witness Specialist, Amanda Kyle-Sprague, in the Crime Victim’s Unit. Here I am able to engage in court observations, learn more about the criminal justice system, but more importantly, I am able to see how support and resources are given to victims of crimes.

One of the projects that I have been working on is the victim contact for the Felony Youth Diversion Board (FYD). This is an alternate to incarceration program that the county of Albany has set up for youth offenders who otherwise would have a clean record. Defendants are brought in front of a board of attorneys, retired judges, and community members to explain their wrongdoing. Through this formal meeting, we are able to see if they would be a candidate for this program. If accepted into FYD and they are able to successfully finish the process, the defendant is able to walk away with a clean record, rather than having to go through the system and having a felony label attached to his or her name.

Victims of crime are often a population that is not focused on in the criminal justice system. Yet, in many cases they are the ones that need the most support. I have been exposed to some very difficult cases in which victims are grieving from a murder, hurting from a sexual assault, or anxious about another violent crime that occurred to them. My role in this site is to serve as an advocate between the DA’s Office and these victims. I write and mail out all initial contact letters, keeping victims up to date with what is happening with their given case, I complete over-the-phone intakes with clients and occasionally, in-person intakes so that they can have a voice in how they wish for the case to proceed and so that these victims do not feel forgotten once the case is underway.

The most interesting part of my Bonner service work is getting to attend the monthly Felony Youth Diversion Board meetings. My supervisor and I are responsible for letting the board members and the victim know about the contact that we have been having with the victim and any special requests that have been made such as an order of no contact or restitution. All of this victim contact work goes through our office.

My work at this site, while at times is small, has greatly shaped what I see myself doing after I graduate Siena College. I am passionate about attending law school, and criminal law fascinates me. However, the inner social work major in me is drawn to ideas of rehabilitation, especially within the justice system. This site allows me to tie both of these worlds into one. I am eager to begin my capstone, looking into the effective restorative justice strategies that are working for FYD and how it can be more efficient. While I’m not a full-time employee of the DA’s Office, I am so passionate about this site and being with this agency since my freshman year has been one of the greatest aspects of my Siena College experience.

Emma Henderschedt ’19
Bonner Service Leader