I saw Judge Peter Forman today walking across the street back to his chambers and after exchanging pleasantries he invited me upstairs to participate in graduation day for the Dutchess County Court Judicial Diversion Program. The program is comprised of criminal justice agencies, treatment providers and community organizations and members of our community that have been convicted of breaking the law and qualify for this alternative to incarceration. 8 people graduated out of over 60 that are in the program, many moved into the third step which is before graduation. It was short simple and my perspective was once again widened just because I showed up. I’ve heard of the program but witnessing the family and friend testimonies and hearing the graduates rap sheets as well as how long they’ve been sober and how adored they were by their Judicial Diversion Team. It was transformative to say the least! After speaking with some of the Dutchess County residents in the program I would like to see more money allocated to this program in order to pay for more housing to include more residents in the program, as well as potential job opportunities for graduates who complete the program. This will mean hiring more probation officers and people in the judicial and criminal justice departments most likely and in doing so it could provide a real commitment to our community, lending towards the “it takes a village” societal practice. Aside from drug and mental health courts, having elected officials present at functions like today also provide a sense of support that has been lacking in broken and marginalized neighborhoods. Our neighbors living in these neighborhoods and are affected by what happens in their backyards every day. The least we can do is meet them where they are... alas I’m stoked to have been a fly on the wall in such a real moment for real people.
Congratulations to everyone who graduated and moved forward today!