Michael Coutu Response:

As the endorsed democratic candidate for Grand Island Town Justice, I thank the League of Women Voters for their efforts to inform Grand Island voters.   The questions posed by the League of Women Voters allow voters the opportunity to choose a candidate based upon the experience, views, and ideas of the candidate, rather than how much money the candidate spends on advertising.  As an inexperienced candidate, running for office for the first time, I am particularly grateful for this opportunity.  Thank you.


1.                  How would you improve the administration of the justice system in your community?


The administration of the justice system on Grand Island can be improved and made more fair, empowering and efficient.  While it is difficult to objectively measure comparative court performance, according to the Justice Court Fund reports for 2004, Grand Island ranked 98th out of thousands of Town and Village courts in New York State.  This is an improvement over the 130th ranking for 2003.  This is good.  However, Grand Island can do better.  If elected I would work tirelessly to ensure fairness, run the courts efficiently, and maximize court resources through the use of alternative programs to help people and reduce the drain placed upon court resources by repeat offenses. 


  I am strongly committed to education, safety and Alternative Dispute Resolution.  One of the best ways to keep children and families out of Court is to educate them about the consequences of their actions, and empower them to modify their behavior to resolve disputes constructively.  Mediation and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution empowers people to resolve legal problems creatively and completely, reducing repeat offences and saving Court resources.    


2.                  Would you utilize alternatives to incarceration?


 In appropriate cases, I do support the use of Alternative to Incarceration (“ATI”) Programs.  ATI programs include pretrial service programs and correctional alternative programs run by governmental or non-profit entities, ranging from community service to mental health treatment programs.  ATIs allow judges to sentence someone to a program where they receive treatment, education and/or employment training under strict supervision.  Criminal justice studies have shown that ATIs reduce jail time and successfully treat people in the community while improving public safety by reducing repeat offenses. 


Simply put, I support ATIs.  ATIs cut crime.  ATIs reduce costs.  ATIs strengthen communities.  ATIs provide offenders with a chance to make amends.  ATIs provide healing and a sense of respect for victims.  


3.                  Do you feel there are sufficient alternative programs in your community?


I feel that there should be more effective programs for the efficient and fair administration of justice on Grand Island.   I believe that governmental and non-profit agencies should work together to educate and empower our young people to make better decisions and resolve disputes without resorting to violence.  I believe in using methods beyond traffic fines, traffic school, and the point system to modify behavior to reduce repeated and dangerous traffic violations.  I believe that alternatives are important for domestic violence cases to secure victim safety, educate and/or counsel the offender, and avoid reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses.  


I support the increased use of alternative dispute resolution.  I am a trained mediator.  In addition to my law degree, I have a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Cornell’s School of Industry and Labor Relations.  I have mediated court referred cases involving folks of all ages as a volunteer mediator for the Dispute Settlement Center which is now run by Child and Family Services of Erie County.  Not only can mediation be used to empower neighbors to find win-win solutions to disputes, but it can be used to reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses by resolving disputes between victims and offenders.


Again, I would like to thank the League of Women Voters for their interest in the fair and impartial administration of justice on Grand Island.  As the endorsed democratic candidate for Grand Island Town Justice, I encourage all voters of Grand Island to read the responses of all candidates and vote on September 13, 2005.  If there are any questions regarding any of my responses, please feel free to contact me by e-mail at: m_coutu@yahoo.com .