Now in Tampa Bay and Florida on an experimental basis one can find mental health courts, domestic violence courts, combat veterans courts and my favorite - watching a few boisterous judges and lawyers firing salvos while ambling around tennis courts.
|Let Defendant's Eat Cake|
The key is having an effective, sympathetic judge who really cares about the lives of those before her and who aims to make a difference in those lives not only by punishment by helping the defendants to make actual changes in their lives. A fine example of how this should work can be found in the Pinellas Drug Court courtroom of Judge Dee Ana Farnell who celebrates with cake, cookies and ice cream she brings for defendants and their families when some of her defendants are finally taken off probation. Remarkable. It's exactly the kind of forward thinking that the criminal court system needs.
Yet, I'm not inclined to believe that specialized courts are the complete answer. Rather than merely categorize and subdivide particular groups and subgroups of defendants, why not try to help each and every one of them? Even those, perhaps especially those who have committed a violent crime? Wouldn't it be worth while to ferret out the root causes of each criminal act. And where the causes are intractable, then give prison. Where the problems are solvable, then solve them.
What Judge Farnell is doing in drug court, is what every judge should be aspiring to do at every level. Temper punishment with help. Find the root of the criminal conduct. Then send the defendant to prison if you must for those defendants who can not or will not be helped. But for those who can be helped find brave judges who aren't afraid to show mercy, temperance, compassion, understanding; judges who are ready to bake cakes for defendants in celebration of the best results.