Local Scholars Offer Valuable Workshop to Kentucky
Thirty years ago, Kentucky led the country in eliminating the practice
of commercial bail bonding. In 1976, commercial bail bonds were outlawed
and a pretrial services program was instituted within all 120 Kentucky
counties. Pretrial officers determine the likelihood of whether or
not those who have been arrested will fail to appear for trial. On
June 6-9 2006, the Pretrial Services of Kentucky, under the auspices
of the Administrative Office of the Courts in Frankfort, KY, held
a conference for, and celebration of, these pretrial officers.
The three-day conference, which took place at the Embassy Suites
in Covington, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
(the Freedom Center), addressed a variety of topics, including the
historical contexts for race relations in Kentucky; national trends
and business practices in the pretrial program; domestic violence;
addiction; cultural competency and mental health. Although it is essential
that pretrial officers demonstrate sensitivity to the inequities in
the legal system—with respect to biases against the poor (who cannot
post bail), the chemically dependent and people of color—a program
of this type had not been offered previously. The conference was meant
to increase pretrial officers’ awareness of these issues and
to alert them to ways in which biases and stereotypes of their own
might influence their decisions in the sentencing process. At the
same time, we also sought to positively affect the officers’
own confidence in their work.
To meet these objectives, between Oct 2005 and May 2006, I met at
regular intervals with Deborah Williamson, an NKU alumna who, as manager
of Education Services, led a team of officials from the Department
of Pretrial Services, including General Manager, Ed Crockett. Together,
we devised strategies for interacting with people from diverse cultural,
economic, linguistic and social backgrounds, including role plays
pertaining to particular dilemmas faced by the pretrial officers.
These strategies were highlighted during the workshop session with
which the conference opened.
During this workshop session, I outlined the historical and cultural
dynamics of race relations in Kentucky, with particular emphasis on
the criminal justice system. The United States’ enslavement-era
economy meant that equality before the law was restricted according
to race, class and gender. As I explained during my presentation,
unequal justice continues to influence the outcome of pre-trial officers’
interactions with defendants, especially when these defendants are
Following my presentation was Kathy McDaniels-Wilson, a psychologist
and joint appointee at the Freedom Center and Xavier University, who
presented on domestic abuse violations. Later, Ken Tankersley, a cultural
anthropologist at NKU, provided a historical overview of legal issues
affecting Native Americans locally and nationally as well as the social
impact of Native peoples in Kentucky. Because this initial day provided
much new information, including a tour of the Freedom Center, it proved
very intense. A performance by the Sky Hawk singers and drummers,
who had been invited by Dr. Tankersley, was therefore a most welcome
musical interlude that allowed for relaxation, reflection and social
The pretrial officers and the other participants were most appreciative
of the information we imparted during the first day’s session.
To keep them engaged, we used technology that allowed participants
to give instantaneous feedback to questions raised by each presenter.
Comments such as “I would like to go back to school,”
or “I want to take your class” were typical. In fact,
my presentation received a standing ovation and the Department of
Pretrial Services has asked me to assist with smaller, interactive
regional programs in the future.
—Delores M. Walters
Delores M. Walters with Chief Justice Lambert, KY., after his conference address.
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