NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Judge Jack Lu visits NECC

No matter what academic path students follow during their time at NECC, there are just some things that all students should be aware of. With the help of Professor Stephen Russell and Judge Jack Lu, students gain a better understanding of the Massachusetts criminal justice system during his annual visits to the campus. According to the Mass.gov website, Judge Lu was appointed to the Boston Municipal Court in 2001 and then to the Superior Court by Mitt Romney in 2006. In 2014, Governor Deval Patrick appointed Judge Lu to chair the Sentencing Commission. He is also the lead Superior Court Judge for a Bureau of Justice Assistance-funded Demonstration Field Experiment of HOPE probation principles, and leads a multi-agency criminal justice innovation group in Essex County, Massachusetts.

The month of March is Judicial Awareness Month, and Professor Stephen Russell has been accompanying his students to the judicial court for quite some time. Like all great things, they come unexpectedly. That is exactly what occurred when Judge Jack Lu took interest in the group of students that were visiting from NECC and managed to contact Professor Russell himself. Since that time about four years ago according to Professor Russell, he has been a guest speaker at NECC . Russell says, “I like to connect my students to the real world, he provides one of those opportunities.” Professor Russell continues to share his outlook on the importance of involving students on a deeper level than just an in-class setting. Russell shares, “Over the years ideas about sentencing have evolved very rapidly and I think Lu has moved along with the ideas. He’s still learning and I think that’s interesting.” Russell also shares the evolution of Judge Lu’s speeches and how they started off “more technical” in terms of how things work, but has developed a narrative that implies “how things should work.” Russell continues to bring along his history students to a variety of different field trips to further expand their academic experience.

Being present during Judge Lu’s lecture on Wednesday March, 27, I can honestly say that I was impressed to find that it was less of a “lecture” and more of a conversation. Judge Lu delivered important insight on the criminal justice system but went on to talk about his personal experience as a judge and how us students are the future of the justice system. Judge Lu was an entertaining and animated speaker. He established trust with the audience and even walked around the lecture to show us  a picture of his son in relations to a story he was giving about sentencing a young biracial boy who had resembled his son. Judge Lu began his speech with the phrase, “You are the center of the universe,” which he followed by saying, “We are in a moment of near crisis in American Criminal Justice.” Judge Lu continued to share the evolution of his views over the course of 18 years and admits that he does not think the same way he did a while back.

He spoke for a short period of time and allowed students to ask questions immediately. One student asked, “Do you regret some of the sentences you’ve given?” in which Judge Lu replied, “Yes, I have.” Judge Lu finished his lecture at NECC by having a conversation with the audience. He even offered to give his personal cell phone and email to students who had further questions. Lu finally ended by handing out two articles. One was titled, “The War on Cops,” by the heritage foundation and “There’s Overwhelming Proof that the Criminal Justice System is Racist, Heres the Proof,” by the Washington Post.

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