Litigants With Diverse Needs

New York County and Richmond County Training - June 2012

On June 15th and June 22nd, the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program hosted its 4th Poverty Simulation for the Unified Court System. New York County and Richmond County Criminal Court staff participated in the simulation while volunteers from data entry, other courts, summer interns, and local law schools facilitated.

As with previous simulations, Criminal Court employees were divided up into "families" where they were asked do all the things families normally do on a regular basis such as pay bills, go to work, visit the bank, etc. The major distinction was that the resources they were given were based on the national poverty level.

Since court employees come from a myriad of economic, social, and religious backgrounds, each participant was able to bring something unique to the event. The diversity within the Unified Court System community contributed to a thoughtful and meaningful event. In addition, by the end of each session most participants seemed to enjoy not only the event, but the chance to interact with their coworkers in a new way.


Comments from Participants

"The best part about it was the exchange with fellow employees."

"It helped me realize how difficult it is to get help."

"I developed a clear understanding of what it would be like to be poor. There are lots of people who need assistance, but there seems to be a lot of red tape, and below average service concerning the programs that are available to them."

"It was nice to connect with coworkers I would not otherwise connected with."

"I actually felt anxious about the obstacles that had to be overcome in order to get back on track."

"Although a simulation cannot be completely true to life, its most valuable aspect was simply the general feeling of anxiety and frustration that it created for participants and volunteers alike. While I do not have personal experience with poverty, it seems that people living in poverty must frequently have these feelings. Understanding that this kind of mental and emotional distress could motivate the actions and decisions of people in poverty, and beginning to understand why, was an incredibly valuable take-away for me."