YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A criminal justice forum was held in Youngstown on Monday.
A panel of five people — Judge Carla Baldwin, Chief Carl Davis, city prosecutor Kathy Thompson, probation officer Vincent Peterson and Lola Simmons from E.D. Home for Good — addressed a room of about 50 people.
They talked about the challenges they’ve faced as people of color in the criminal justice field. Chief Davis recalled a time when he was profiled by police as a child. He said it was at that moment that he knew he wanted to go into law enforcement to make a difference.
The panel also discussed laws and policies they feel need to be reformed.
“As far as improvements, people need to understand the system and most don’t. They don’t understand how things work, it has nothing to do with intelligence,” Judge Baldwin said. “They come into court, I don’t care if we would qualify them as a frequent flyer, it doesn’t mean anyone has ever sat them down and explained, ‘This is what happens right here, and this is the next step.'”
Judge Baldwin said she would like to see more direction and guidance in the court system. She also said language interpretation is a big need.
Some on the panel shared their own experiences and what led them into the criminal justice field.
Peterson recalled the time he was called to help a man who was hanging off a bridge. Peterson was able to talk with the man for about 45 minutes and talked him into coming down.
“It was at that moment that it didn’t become a job to me, it actually became a ministry. It became real to me. So now, working this job, it’s more than just a job. It is honestly my ministry and I hope by doing this and having other officers be around, that I can make an impact on their lives,” Peterson said.
At one point during the discussion, one of the audience members shared her frustration. She stood up and yelled a plea to the panel.
“Y’all not helping us, y’all need to be talking to the right people. These people are out here killing our kids, what are y’all talking about? Y’all not even doing nothing about it,” the woman said before walking out visibly upset.
“That’s the cry of the unheard, that’s what we just witnessed. That’s a cry out of some hurt and some pain, some frustration. Let’s give her no disrespect, let’s pray for her and whatever thing is hurting her and pray she gets some solutions and answers that she deserves,” Judge Baldwin said.
She went on to explain how important it is for the justice system to be up to date and serving the needs of today’s issues in the community and those who come to the courthouses.
“If we help those who are perceived as the least of us and give them equal footing to become the best of us, then our community will always win each and every time,” Judge Baldwin said.
The forum was held at Metro Assembly of God in Youngstown and sponsored by the MLK Criminal Justice Taskforce.