18 high school students explore careers in criminal justice system

Students were introduced to a wide array of job options that keep courthouse running

Second Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza talks to King Kekaulike High School students about treatment courts and careers in the Judiciary on Friday morning. The students are in a career exploration development class that was on a field trip to the courthouse. -- The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

WAILUKU — Some King Kekaulike High School students got a glimpse last week into careers in the criminal justice system, hearing from police officers, deputy prosecutors and deputy public defenders, as well as other employees who keep the courthouse running.

“I just didn’t know there were so many different jobs,” said sophomore Lucky Skebong. “I found it really interesting.”

He was among 18 students in a career exploration class who heard nearly two dozen people discuss their work during a field trip Friday to the courtroom of 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza.

While lawyers and judges have talked about their jobs to students in the past, Cardoza said it was the first time that the 2nd Circuit has hosted a program that included others who work in the Judiciary and criminal justice system.

During the four-hour program, speakers included Deputy Prosecutors Tracy Jones and Chayah Skye, Deputy Public Defenders Selina Swatek and Sam August, information technology support technician Dean Ikioka, Maui Drug Court counselors Megan Yamaguchi and Kathy Bourgea and court reporter Melissa Brown. Students also heard from the head of the prosecutor’s victim witness program, a paralegal, probation officers, District and Family Court supervisors and a member of the courthouse maintenance team.

Maui Police Department vice K-9 officer Jamie Wright watches his dog, Senda, alert to a backpack containing marijuana Friday morning as King Kekaulike High School students snap photos during the demonstration in the courtroom of 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza. -- The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

“It gives us a chance to educate our students about how the Judiciary serves the community in many different ways,” Cardoza said. “I think that’s critically important.

“It highlights some of the issues we confront on a daily basis in the courtroom.”

Cardoza discussed some of the Judiciary’s treatment courts, including the Drug Court, which will have its 600th graduate in November.

He told students about how one Thursday morning he saw a man sleeping in the courtroom gallery and had sheriff’s deputies wake the man, who appeared to be struggling with drug issues. Three days later, the man died, he said.

At times, “you see lives fall apart, people struggle,” Cardoza told the students.

Maui Police Department evidence specialist Anthony Earles shows a fingerprint impression to students while talking about his job Friday morning in the courtroom of 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Joseph Cardoza. -- The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

Bourgea said eight people have died in the Drug Court program that offers intensive treatment and supervision as an alternative to incarceration.

Along with sadness, she said she has seen “phenomenal success” in the program.

“For me, I have to focus on there’s always hope, even if someone is not on the path I want them to be,” Bourgea said. “It’s for me to show them where the doors are.”

Cathy Feiteira, who teaches the King Kekaulike career exploration class that brought the students to the courthouse, said that a handful of students were interested in legal careers.

“After today, some of them might have a different outlook,” she said. “My hope is to expose them to as many careers and professionals, so they get a bigger look at what’s out there.

“We think lawyer, we think judge. But there’s so many support positions under them. It’s important to me to make sure we do whatever we can to expose them to as much as we can.”

Students in the class range from freshmen to seniors.

“Everyone helps each other,” Feiteira said. “It creates a wonderful learning environment for everybody.”

As the year goes on, students also will learn about careers in the culinary and hospitality industries, Feiteira said.

“This field trip was especially important,” she said. “We were able to do so much in such a short time.”

After seeing Brown demonstrate how she uses a stenography machine to capture what is said during court hearings, sophomore Mahiole Austring said she liked “the typing lady.”

Brown and other court reporters prepare transcripts from court hearings.

“I might want to try it,” Austring said. “For some reason, when I saw it, it just seems like something I would be good at.”

Students pulled out their cellphones and stood to get a better look when Maui Police Department vice officer Jamie Wright led his narcotics K-9, Senda, into the courtroom. After being released, the dog quickly ran to a backpack containing marijuana and alerted.

Wright said that the work sniffing out drugs is like play for the dog, who was rewarded with a treat afterward.

Feiteira said students also were excited to see police evidence specialist Anthony Earles show how evidence can be gathered at crime scenes. With the lights dimmed in the courtroom, he showed how green and purple lights can be used to illuminate fingerprint impressions that are otherwise hard to distinguish.

In his 18 years on the bench, Cardoza said one thing he has heard often from people is “I wish I’d gotten my education, I wish I hadn’t given up on education.”

“You’re young now. Take advantage of it now,” he told the students. “We want to make sure you have the futures you can have in life. It’s really important to us that you have a chance to get an idea of what’s out there.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.