MAYVILLE – COVID-19 has presented plenty of challenges worldwide and, locally, the number of domestic violence cases has risen because of them.
That’s according to Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone, who recently spoke to WNYNewsNow during a one-on-one phone interview. Barone explains that the various quarantine recommendations and, in some cases, requirements, are taking a toll on residents.
“We’ve seen a number of situations where people have been cooped up with one another, for better or worse, but it’s created its own unique opportunity for different types of crimes to occur or different situations to occur,” Barone said. “It’s created a very volatile situation sometimes. We’re seeing a number of different situations arise that weren’t around before.”
“This whole pandemic, beyond the significant and life-threatening situation it creates with individuals’ health, we’re seeing a substantial increase in the types of problems people are encountering in the criminal justice system, and their mental health as well,” he continued. “It’s a real challenge quite frankly.”
Barone says that his office helps its clients not just with representation, but with life crises that they face outside of the courtroom.
“We’re a very holistic office now. We help all of our clients with a number of different things,” Barone said. “It’s not just representing them on a case. It’s helping them out with their mental health crisis, or helping them out with their social services problems, or helping them find a place to live. We deal with homeless all the time, we deal with people who don’t have enough to eat, we deal with people who have kids who haven’t eaten in several days.”
“It’s difficult for a client to stay focused on their criminal problems, or their family court problems, when they’re just trying to survive. Imagine trying to survive with everything else in society when there’s no pandemic, but throw a pandemic on top of that, and it really stresses the joints.”
“Patience and understanding” is very crucial for his staff, its clients and their families to have during the ongoing pandemic, Barone says.
“Our department is involved in more than just showing up for someone’s court appearance. That’s not what we’re about,” Barone said. “We’re about helping people anyway we can.”
The Chautauqua County Public Defender’s Office represents clients in both Criminal and Family Courts.