Erin is a Midlands native, born in Columbia, and after having lived in several states over the years, she’s back home. Her 91-year-old grandfather lives a couple of miles from her, her mother, sister, and brother-in-law live in northeast Columbia, and her dad’s on James Island. A member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Columbia, she loves to spend time with her family, both here and out of state, since she also loves to travel (that’s her in Hawaii).
In a state like South Carolina, with large populations of retirees flocking to its lakefronts and ocean shores, as well as the vigorous efforts being made in recent years by Lt. Governor Andre Bauer to raise awareness of these issues, her background in elder abuse issues caught our eye.
As we always do, we’ll throw some questions at her and see what she throws back at us.
1) Of all the options you had after law school, how did you end up in criminal prosecution?
2) For attorneys, a career in prosecution isn’t always the best-paying route, so we’ll assume you don’t do it for the money. What do you personally find to be the biggest rewards associated with your work?
I instantly liked criminal law (although it was probably my lowest grade in school), and tried both prosecution and defense. Social justice is a very important concept in the Catholic church, and my mother really emphasized it in our lives. I thought I might wind up a public defender, but it was quickly apparent that the people with the power to do the most justice were on the prosecution side. I believe we need great attorneys on both sides of the criminal courtroom, and have always felt like my place was on the side of the State.
3) Tell us a little bit about what kind of work you do in your current position.
When I was working in the courtroom, every night I could lay my head on my pillow with a clean conscience. I knew that I had done something good for someone every day, even when I’d just pushed paper on my desk or answered hone calls. That’s a pretty great reason to go to work every morning. I’d love it if both prosecutors and public defenders were paid better, in order to keep more of them in the profession long-term.
4) Since a lot of your work in recent years has focused upon protecting those, such as the elderly, who can’t protect themselves, what do you see as the most important trends out there?
I’m involved with a Federally-funded project through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). There are three prongs of the training currently (for law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors), and training for victim advocates and adult protective services workers is coming soon. I work with an incredible faculty from all over the nation to put on the OVW training for prosecutors on elder abuse and neglect. I’m not generally at the front of the room, but in the background, making sure the curriculum is running as it should. I have a lot of help, but ultimately I‘m responsible for the education these prosecutors receive.
We use a multi-disciplinary faculty consisting of prosecutors, medical doctors, mental health specialists, adult protective services workers, and victim advocates. Law enforcement experts on elder abuse were also involved in the development of the project. I also run a listserv for the trainees and faculty, plus offer technical assistance to prosecutors on elder abuse.
5) You're a Midlands native. For those who doubt that claim, we'll ask you to prove it by naming at least two good places to go for BBQ.
It’s an incredibly vibrant time for the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse, so I’d prefer to focus on some positive trends. Because of increased awareness, we’re seeing much more reporting of elder abuse by community members and family members of victims, as well as more victims being willing to report for themselves.
It’s important to remember that in many states, 55-60 is “elderly,” which most people who have reached that age wouldn’t call themselves. Our elders are active community members who are demanding fair and equal treatment under the law. We talk about elder abuse being in a similar place as domestic violence was 30 years ago, where people are really interested in stopping it, but not entirely sure what they can do.
I’ve been very impressed with efforts from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, as you mentioned. The more we can do to enforce the laws that are already on the books, the better off our elders will be. If each of our legislators simply thought about how they’d like their parents, grandparents, or themselves to be treated, I think we’d likely be in very good shape with our laws. There are great model laws out of Wisconsin and California, which of course is on the forefront of this issue. Florida and New York are also states to look to for instruction.
Doc's on Shop Road and Little Pigs up on Alpine Road.
6) As our final question – the Blogland loves to talk about music, so we’re going to ask you to name your favorite album(s) and/or artist(s).
For recent music, I’m a little obsessed with Corinne Bailey Rae’s debut album, but the classics still draw me: Joni Mitchell’s Wild Things Run Fast, and pretty much anything by CSNY or James Taylor.