|Offenders' field trip to Medical Examiner's Office designed to disturb
Posted September 27 2002
Broward County Sun Sentinel
by Peter Hawkins - Special Correspondent
Broward County Judge Joel T. Lazarus
|Many of the young offenders were stunned by what they saw --
and that is precisely the idea.
"The whole evening opened my eyes," said a 22-year-old man. "It showed how life can be taken so easily."
He was one of 43 Broward County residents, most of them convicted of driving under the influence, who attended a 90-minute young alcohol and drug offenders program at the county Medical Examiner's Office in Dania Beach. They saw pictures of victims made unrecognizable by burns, a child run over who had tire prints on his back, motorcyclists' crushed legs, crash victims' limbs half cut off, decapitations.
The program has been put on every three months since 1998. It began when Broward County Judge Joel T. Lazarus and Dr. Joshua A. Perper, chief medical examiner for Broward County, decided to show young DUI offenders the consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Attending the program is a condition of their probation. The next program is on Dec. 12.
"I'm convinced that by doing this we've saved lives," said Lazarus.
He said he knows what it's like when a young person gets behind a wheel.
"I've raised three boys and I've spent nights in the living room waiting for them to come back," Lazarus said.
Perper, Dr. Nabil El Sanardi, director of emergency medicine at Broward General Medical Center, and Lt. John Bagnardi of the Florida Highway Patrol come regularly to bring the message home to young offenders.
"I truly believe you're very lucky to be here," Perper told them.
Many DUI offenders, he said, are "horizontal or dead -- and being dead isn't the worst that happens."
Sanardi demonstrated the plight of a paralyzed road victim by observing: "This person cannot pet a dog."
He added: "Drinking and driving can cost you your money, your job, your health, your liberty and your life."
"We deal with this every day," Bagnardi said. "We scrape bodies off the highway and if they make it they go to Dr. Sanardi and if they don't they go to Dr. Perper. Otherwise, they go before Judge Lazarus."
After the gruesome slides, a 49-year-old man talked passionately about how alcoholism had shattered his life. Formerly a highly successful criminal lawyer, he'd lost his job, his wife and his home.
"Don't think it won't happen to you," he warned. "I was young and sharp and a quarterback, and I lost it all."
His speech deeply affected a 19-year-old man from Cooper City.
"He moved me a lot and made me think what I want to do with my life," he said. "I'm going to talk to him."
"Watching the little kid on the screen -- it's so sad," said a Hollywood man, who is 20. "It was terrible to see those people dead and dying -- and I'm still alive."
|Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel|