By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- Local judges have been asked to join people guilty of DUI at an educational program on the dangers of drunken driving and domestic violence.
The Victim Awareness Program lasts two hours and includes presentations by police officers, a previously abused woman, and the mother of a drunken driving victim. Videos about domestic violence and drunken driving also are shown during the program, which is hosted by the Canfield police and the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Hundreds of drunken drivers have been ordered to attend the program as part of their sentences. Last year, 435 people attended the program.
"It's had a lot of success, and it's obviously done a lot of good in the community," said Atty. Loren Popio, a former Mahoning County Court judge who helped start the domestic violence portion of the program.
MADD and the Canfield police have asked judges from the county's common pleas court, juvenile court, and area courts to attend the program Tuesday. The program is from 7 to 9 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Canfield municipal building.
Judge Scott Hunter of the Mahoning County Court in Canfield said he didn't know much about the program. He stressed, however, that he will "look at anything that is able to mitigate a domestic violence situation."
Janet Duricy, president of the local MADD chapter, said MADD and the Canfield police want to remind the judges that the program exists.
"We just want to let them know that this is an option," she said.
The drunken-driving portion of the program, called the Victim Impact Panel, was started by MADD in the 1980s. Duricy noted that many MADD chapters around the country offer similar programs.
Violence prevention added
The domestic violence portion of the program, called Peace at Home, began in 2002. Popio worked with MADD and the Canfield police to create Peace at Home.
Those who participate in the program are charged $20 each. Duricy said that without that money, "there wouldn't be a chapter of MADD in this area."
Popio, who lost his seat on the bench to Diane Vettori in November, said he hoped the program would raise awareness about the problem of domestic violence.
"It's an issue that's not going to go away," he said.
Popio noted that the program is not designed for those who have been convicted of domestic violence. Instead, the program works to prevent domestic violence that may be committed by those with substance abuse problems, he said.
Duricy called Popio "a very big advocate" for the program. She noted that MADD wants to make sure the program continues even though Popio is no longer a judge.
"We don't want to lose the recognition," she said.
Duricy added that many people have told her that the program has made a difference in their lives. Canfield police officer Valorie Kendall said a woman who recently attended the program told her, "never in a million years, when I got caught drinking and driving, did I realize I'd learn so much."
"We've had a couple of comments that made it all worthwhile," Kendall said.