crime

CHUM

"They don't usually like the court at first," admits Deb Holman, ruefully.

But an innovative collaboration between legal professionals and community support service providers (Holman is a Street Outreach Worker for CHUM) is helping to break the cycle of homelessness, chemical dependency, mental illness and crime.

©Lisa Johnson

Americans are talking about the death penalty these days; Arkansas pledged to put eight death row prisoners to death in 11 days in an effort to use up one of the drugs used in lethal injection before it expired at the end of April. Court orders eventually blocked half of the scheduled executions, but four men – the last one late last Thursday night - were put to death.

Nathson Fields knows more about their experiences on death row than he’d like: in 1985, he was arrested and wrongly convicted of a double murder in Chicago.  UMD’s Criminology Club invited Fields to UMD to talk about his experiences last month.

826 PARANORMAL/Flickr

If you're wrongfully convicted of a crime in Minnesota, a law passed this past spring says you could get $50,000 to $100,000 for each year you spent in prison, plus reimbursement for things like court costs, lost wages and health, educational, housing and transportation expenses.

It's a step in the right direction, says Emily Gaarder, an assistant professor of Sociology/Anthropology at UMD, but in a society where we demand people take responsibility for their actions and own up to their mistakes,  it can't only go one way.

©Deb Holman

Even after an entire semester in Jacki Buffington-Vollum's class on mental illness and crime, many students refuse to believe that anyone could commit violence without being mentally ill.​  The numbers say society is more afraid of mental illness now than we were in the '50s - but here in the Northland, are we afraid because we're actually in danger or because we're just ... uncomfortable?  UMD Professor and forensic clinical psychologist Jacki Buffington-Vollum and Duluth patrol officer Jake Willis are our guests as we talk crime, mental illness and what we're really afraid of.