Transcript

430:

Very Tough Love
Transcript

Originally aired 03.25.2011

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Full audio: http://tal.fm/430

Part One.

Ira Glass

Lindsey Dills is 24. She's from a place in southern Georgia called Glynn County, right on the coast. The nearest big town is a partly gentrified, mostly impoverished city called Brunswick. Population 16,000. Though I interviewed her in a prison way upstate.

Lindsey Dills

OK I'm Lindsey Dills. This is Lee Arrendale State Prison. Before all this I was-- I actually was all-state for soccer five years in a row. I was expected to have a scholarship to college. A couple scouts had contacted my dad, my coach at my school.

Ira Glass

But in her sophomore year of high school, Lindsey started smoking pot. She began working at this bar and restaurant, Spanky's, as a waitress, ran with an older crowd that she met at the restaurant. By senior year she was doing coke in a pretty serious way. She had a 21-year-old boyfriend, which at the time she thought was the coolest thing ever, though now she sees that one differently. Finally, senior year, she quit soccer, which of course, her dad and every other adult in her life tried to talk her out of.

Lindsey Dills

The coaches were calling the house, telling my dad, "Will you please talk to her?" And probably part of it was part of the drugs, and I think part of it was that I just had done it for so long and I wanted to be-- I wanted to be a teenager. I wanted to go do stuff on the weekends, and I wanted to not have practice at 5 o'clock in the morning. And I didn't want to have to run three miles every other day.

Ira Glass

And she says, in retrospect, she knows she wasn't coping well. Her home life had been pretty rough when she was little, before and after her parents split up. And now she was self-mutilating, cutting herself with a razor, smoking a lot of pot. And her parents tried to do the right thing and get her treatment for all that. She went into a program for a week or so, more than once. But here's where things took an unusual turn for Lindsey. October 2004, she was 17, her dad was out of town. And she forged two checks, one for $40, one for $60, on her dad's checking account. She cashed them at her job, spent some of the money on drugs.

Lindsey Dills

Well, he comes back from out of town and he does his balance his checkbook. He's a CPA, so he's on it. As soon as he gets home he knows that something's not adding up. And I don't-- I don't in a million years blame my dad for doing what he did. He was terrified. All he'd heard was horror stories about what happens to people when they were doing drugs. He didn't mess with drugs. My dad doesn't drink. In the 24 years I've been alive, I've never seen my dad drink alcohol. I never heard my dad curse.

Ira Glass

She says he started randomly taking her to be drug tested. And told her that if she failed a drug test, then he'd go to the police about the two forged checks. Lindsey figured out ways to pass the test-- get somebody else's pee, or dilute her own. But finally she fails a test. And her dad followed through on his threat.

Lindsey Dills

Two police officers come into my job and they're like, "We're looking for Lindsey Dills." I was like, "Let me get her for you." And I'm about to just leave. So I know exactly what's going on at this point when they say, "We're looking for Lindsey Dills." I was like, "Oh my god, he actually did it." I never thought he would do it.

So I am arrested at this point. They slam me over the hostess stand. I'm at the front of restaurant. People are turning around. I'm mortified. I'm, like, 18. And everybody's just like, "Oh [BLEEP]." Because they know how my dad is. My dad used to call Spanky's to see if I had left work. He's be like, "Is Lindsey there?" Because I would be like, "Oh, I'm working late."

The sheriff's in there. He's one of the regulars at the bar. And the sheriff's standing there Like, "Oh my god."

Ira Glass

Because you know the sheriff, because you've waited on him.

Lindsey Dills

Right, I know the sheriff. And then there's a bond salesman there that, he's a regular. Him and the sheriff are real good friends. And so he finds out what my bond is, and he's going to bond me out, because he's familiar with me. Well, my dad calls him. Because I'm like-- my dad's like, "I'm not going to bond you out." I was like, "Well, I don't need you to bond me out. So and so's bonding me out." It's the worst thing I could have ever said. So my dad calls this man and begs him not to bond me out. He's like, "Please don't. I'm trying to save her life."

Ira Glass

Her dad declined to be interviewed for the radio. But Lindsey's mom, Vikki Woodard, confirmed that he was hoping that this would be the intervention that would change everything. She had moved from Georgia to South Carolina a month before Lindsey forged the two checks and kept in touch by phone with what was happening. She says her thinking was, Lindsey had just turned 18. It was their last chance. After this--

Vikki Woodard

She could do whatever she wanted. She could drop out of school. She could move out. We would have no influence over her whatsoever. And she was in a fast spiral down at that point. She was not going to school. Her father would call me and say, "I can't get her out of the bed in the morning. She just won't get up." And so he rolled the dice.

Ira Glass

He rolled the dice hoping that she would agree to a drug treatment program that he found, out of town, away from her friends and everybody who was influencing her to do drugs, and that she'd go there in exchange for dropping the charges. But Lindsey didn't want to go out of town to some drug treatment program that her daddy picked. And then the prosecutor put another option on the table. Drug court.

Drug courts are all over the country. You've probably heard of them. They've been around since 1989 and they are a huge national success story. The idea is, you take nonviolent offenders whose crimes are caused by their drug addiction. And instead of prison time, you give them court supervised drug treatment. This accomplishes two things. It saves money, because fewer people are incarcerated. And studies show it actually helps people. It gets them off drugs, which means fewer repeat offenders.

But if you enter a drug court program, it's serious business. Especially the drug court that happened to be in Lindsey's small town. Which is run by a judge that many people truly fear. The Chief Judge at the Glynn County Superior Court, Amanda Williams.

The basics of the Glynn County drug court program are about as tough as they get. It takes two years to complete. And at the beginning, you're going to five meetings a week with drug court counselors, plus four AA or NA meetings a week, plus curfews and drug tests every week. If you finish the whole program, your record is wiped clean, but if you mess up and flunk out, you have a felony conviction on the original charge on your record and you serve the time for that conviction. So there's a real threat hanging over your head.

Lindsey Dills

So Jason Clarke is my public defender at the time, and he's warning me. He's saying, "Lindsey don't take drug court. I'm telling you, you won't make it." He's told me this like three or four times. I'm adamant. I'm saying, "I'm taking drug court." Because all I know is I get to get out of jail. It's all I know. I don't know anything else about it. So I go to plead into drug court. My dad's in the courtroom. Judge Barton was on the bench that day instead of Judge Williams. She was gone. My dad's done Judge Barton's accounting for probably the past 15 years and they're very good friends. So he sees me come in and he pulls me up to the bench and he's like, "Don't do this. Don't take drug court. Are you sure you want to do this?" He asked me three or four times.

Ira Glass

Judge Barton says this?

Lindsey Dills

Judge Barton does this. Judge Barton's trying to talk me out of taking drug court, that I would not do well. I wouldn't make it. He didn't think it was what I should do.

Vikki Woodard

And she was spiteful that day.

Ira Glass

Again, Lindsey's mom, Vikki.

Vikki Woodard

She was like, "You--" And Lindsey's just got a little bit too much of her dad and I in her. She's very independent. She's like, "You're not going to tell me what to do. You want me to do this? I'm doing this other thing." She clearly looked at her dad. He said, Vikki, she looked at me with the most spite and hate in her face that he'd ever seen. And she was like, "I choose drug court." And he could not believe it. He said his heart fell into his stomach and that he was just stick.

Lindsey Dills

And he had told me just the other day on the phone, his voice was breaking, he said, "I wish-- I think about it over and over again in my head and, I wish I had stood up on that day in court." He regrets more that day than I do, I think.

Ira Glass

That's because Lindsey happened to be at a very unusual drug court. Most drug courts, you're in and out in a year or two. The average program is a year and three months. Occasionally, very, very rarely, somebody is stuck in a drug court for three years. But the drug court run by Judge Amanda Williams operates so differently from others that Lindsey will spend five and a half years in drug court, including 14 months behind bars. And then she's going to spend another five years after that. Six months behind bars-- she's in the middle of that right now-- and four and a half years probation. By the time she's done, it'll be 10 and a half years of her life.

Now that seemed like a lot to me. Remember, the original crime here is two forged checks totaling $100. First offense. But I thought, maybe that's just how they do it in Georgia. So I ran it by two lawyers who handle drug cases around the state.

Bruce Harvey

That's insane. That is complete insanity.

Ira Glass

This would be Bruce Harvey, a defense attorney who's handled felony drug cases for 33 years all over Georgia. Here's Parag Shah, who was a public defender in Atlanta, author of a guide book to Georgia criminal law called The Code.

Parag Shah

Wow. That is-- my opinion would be that would be egregious in probably 90% of the counties in Georgia.

Ira Glass

That seems like a lot.

Parag Shah

Extremely.

Ira Glass

Both attorneys said that typically two forged checks for $100 bucks, first offense, at most would get your probation. And you'd probably get some sort of alternative program, like a 16-week drug class or a life skills class, without ever going to trial. Of course these were defense attorneys. Maybe prosecutors would see this differently. So I ran the facts of Lindsey's case by the District Attorney for Forsyth County, Penny Penn, who handles the drug court cases there.

Penny Penn

It certainly sounds rather Kafkaesque, doesn't it? And I don't know that it's a very good use of resources. And that's separate and apart from just the fundamental fairness.

Ira Glass

What's the fairness issue?

Penny Penn

Well, that it has gone on for so long. You know, and the point of the drug court program is to get people help.

Ira Glass

WBEZ Chicago. It's This American Life, distributed by Public Radio International. I'm Ira Glass. Today on our show we have a story about the kinds of court cases that almost never make the news because the offenses are so small. Two checks forged by a teenager, tiny instances of drug possession or attempts to purchase. But these cases have life-changing consequences because they're being adjudicated in what is possibly the toughest drug court in the country.

There are over 2,400 all over the United States. They give enormous power to judges. You sign away all kinds of rights when you enter the programs. This is the story of what happens when a judge takes that power and starts doing things other drug courts don't. Things that violate the basic philosophy of all drug courts. After months of investigation I believe that it's likely no other drug court judge in the country is running a program like Judge Amanda Williams. Stay with us.

Part Two.

Ira Glass

Before we go any further, there's something that's going to affect what you hear this hour. It was unusually hard for me to get people to talk to me for this story. Over and over I would hear about something that Judge Williams had supposedly said or done, and I was go to the lawyers or litigants involved, and they'd refuse to speak with me, saying they were scared of retaliation. Which to be fair, would probably happen around lots of judges all over the country. In Glynn County, though, it was widespread. Ex-employees of the court, people who'd come up before the judge on divorce proceedings or other business years ago, parents and family members of people who went before Judge Williams. Nobody wanted to cross her.

I was able to get Judge Williams to sit down for an interview. It was this fall. She was up for reelection. A small group of lawyers had organized against her, tried to get her voted off the bench. It became a very contentious, bitter race. Even in an interview setting, she's imposing. Forceful, very quick, very smart. And she's idealistic. She told me that her interest in starting a drug court in Glynn County wasn't just to make the courts run more efficiently. It was personal.

Judge Amanda Williams

There's some addiction in my family. My husband has been in recovery for over 15 years. And about the time that I started looking to start a drug court, around 1996, he had gotten into recovery. So we've lived it as a family. Because all the family members are touched by it.

Ira Glass

To nobody's surprise, Judge Williams won reelection this fall. It's notoriously difficult to unseat a sitting judge. She had massive name recognition after 20 years on the bench, and she outspent the other candidate 3 to 1.

But by this winter, Judge Williams's opponents were still digging around for dirt. Things were still incredibly divisive in town, and everyone was sure that more challenges for the judge were still on the way. And I assume because they felt so embattled, so unfairly attacked, drug court staff, counselors, and lawyers all declined my repeated requests for interviews. They acted like people under siege. The head of the counseling program, Steven Mansfield, after not returning my calls or emails, finally told me in the reception area of his office that he wouldn't take part in the story. I asked him why, and he repeated, "I won't take part in your story." I asked, "Do you first want me to explain what the story's about?" And he said, "If you try, I'll call an officer and have you removed from the building."

Unfortunately when I interviewed Judge Williams this fall, I only ran through the issues that had come up in the judicial election campaign. Since then, I've sent her my tentative conclusions about what I see in her drug court. I listed the ways in which it seems unlike other drug courts around the country and asked for an interview about those differences. But after I phoned, faxed, emailed, and simply sat in her office day after day hoping to catch her, she had her secretary turn me down.

The main way Judge Williams's drug court is different from other ones is that it is simply more punitive. Take what happened to Lindsey. The week after she signed up for drug court she was caught violating the drug court's curfew on a Friday night. She also failed a drug screen. This is not unusual. Most people entering any drug court program relapse in the first few months. It's expected and built into the programs. Lindsey ended up in front of Judge Williams the following Wednesday.

Lindsey Dills

So she's telling me she still thinks I'm smoking pot, which I probably was. And so I had-- she like reams me out. Tells me that I'm like-- I just remember being in drug court. My face turned blood red. She was screaming at me. I started crying. I had to go do seven days.

Ira Glass

Seven days in jail, that is.

Lindsey Dills

And then from then on, the only time I ever interacted with Judge Williams was when I was in trouble. And she would flip out every time I went before her. I mean, she was just-- she's screaming at you in court. I mean, she's standing behind the bench with a microphone and screaming at you.

Ira Glass

Judge Williams has a reputation for yelling from the bench. When the new District Attorney, Jackie Johnson was sworn into office by the judge this August she joked, "Judge Williams heard my first trial. And of course, she yelled at me." I talked to one former drug court counselor who told me he actually quit over this. They'd see the judge lash out at clients, embarrass them and scold them. He came to feel that it was counterproductive, that what the addicts heard was the old punitive message that they were failures and worthless. It set them back. He eventually felt that he couldn't, in good conscience, be part of it.

In the court transcript the day that Lindsey's talking about, March 30, 2005, Judge Williams says, "Don't come up here and tell me you're not drinking. I will put you in jail another 24 hours every time you tell me you're not drinking. I know you're drinking." Lindsey then says something that's inaudible to the court reporter. Judge Williams replies, "You're drinking. You're drinking. Do you understand that you cannot drink?" Lindsey says, "Yes, ma'am." Judge Williams says, "OK, you're drinking and I personally think that you're using marijuana." This goes on for awhile and she says, "Now you give me seven days." Before Lindsey goes, the judge warns her, "Don't come in here and pull this addiction mess with this court."

Lindsey gets seven days for her first relapse. The standard penalty in Judge Williams's courtroom is less. If you fail a drug screen and don't admit to using drugs, it's three days the first time you relapse, seven days the second time, 28 days the third time.

West Huddleston

Any drug court that relies primarily on jail, or punishment generally, is operating way outside of our philosophy and just does not understand addiction.

Ira Glass

This is West Huddleston, who runs the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, the main organization for 25,000 judges, lawyers and counselors in the nation's 2,400-plus drug courts. He's been working with drug courts since the mid-'90s. He used to be a counselor and a coordinator for one. He says the problem with jail time is that decades of experience shows it doesn't work with addicts. Addicts keep using no matter what terrible things happen to them as a result of using. It's practically the definition of an addict.

West Huddleston

They've lost jobs. They've lost their income. They've lost their loved ones. All of those natural consequences, which are much more severe than a day, or two, or three in jail have not stopped them from using drugs and alcohol. Why would we think that putting them in jail would do so?

Ira Glass

And so when drug courts use jail time-- and the majority do-- he says it's very sparingly.

West Huddleston

You know, 12 hours, 24 hours.

Ira Glass

And only after other sanctions have failed. The official National Association for Drug Court Professionals' guidelines lists seven other possible things courts can do before they resort to jail, including warnings, increased treatment or monitoring, fines, community service, having to watch a whole day of drug court proceedings. The whole point of drug court was to be an alternative to what they called the punitive approach taken by the rest of the criminal justice system, and to replace that with treating and curing the addicts.

Now to be fair to Judge Williams and her drug court, I should point out the while jail time for first relapses might be unusual in drug courts around the country, it's not unusual in Georgia. Calling around, we found that these counties and judicial circuits all do it: Gwinnett, Dublin, Atlantic, Eastern, Forsyth, Cherokee, Enota, Dekalb, Waycross, Hall. Most of these counties, it's just a day or two in jail on first relapse. And none of them came close to the amount of jail time Judge Williams prescribes for later relapses and broken rules. Lindsey ends up doing jail stays of 51 days, 90 days, 104 days, which would be unheard of in most drug courts.

And Judge Williams takes people who relapse four times and sends them away on what she calls "indefinite sentences." I could find no other drug court in Georgia that does this, and none of the national experts I talk with have ever even heard of such a practice. I learn details of how it works through interviews, court documents, and court depositions.

An indefinite sentence is just what it sounds like. Judge Williams sends you to jail, but doesn't specify how long it's going to be. Often that's because she hasn't decided. I was told that Judge Williams would declare things like, "They're going to sit their ass over there till they get a better attitude." Or, "Take them away. You'll come back when I'm ready for you." So you sit in jail and wait, not sure what's going to happen to you next. Usually it's two or three months, but it can be more.

At the end of all this, some people are kicked out of the drug court program, some are allowed back in. Some are sent to inpatient rehab facilities. Though the problem here, I was told by a drug court insider, was that, contrary to national drug court guidelines, Judge Williams first punishes the person for at least 28 days in jail-- and usually it's months-- before they're sent anywhere for more treatment.

Lindsey Dills got sent away to indefinite detention on October 8, 2008. She'd been in the program for three and a half years at that point, had relapsed a couple times, done all sorts of things where you can understand they'd be kind of fed up with her. There's no court transcript of what the judge said that day, because rather than sentence Lindsey in open court like usual, for reasons that aren't clear--

Lindsey Dills

She doesn't do me in front of everyone else. She has me go back into her chambers with her and the drug court staff. So we're in private now. There's no one that can hear any of this being said, and she's telling me how she thinks she should terminate me.

Ira Glass

Terminate her, kick her out of the program. Which would mean serving the full sentence on the original forgery charges, 20 to 24 months.

Lindsey Dills

I was hysterically crying this whole time. Because I'm like, "Oh my god she's going--" And I'm back in the chambers, completely by myself. I have no idea what's about to happen. And she's telling me how she's been thinking about terminating me, how she doesn't know if I can get this. That maybe I just need to go to jail and maybe I'll get it sometime later in my life, that they have other people to deal with. So she says, "You're going to give me 28 days.

So I get to the jailhouse and I call my dad immediately as soon as I get there, from the pay phone that's in the booking area. And I hear the phone ring where the booking area is. And they answer it, and I heard them say, "Dills." Like, they were talking to someone and they said something about Dills. So I'm on the phone and they said, "Dills hang that phone up." And I'm like, "OK." And so I turn around, and the tell me that Judge Williams has now called and ordered me to have no further contact: no phone, no visitation, and no mail. And that I'd be put in their isolation cell. And I'm like, "How long?" And they're like, "We don't know." And I'm like, "Well for the whole 28 days that I'm here?" And they said, "Well your order is now indefinite."

So I don't know what to do. I'm thinking she's just going to leave me there for 28 days like this to really just scare the crap out of me. And then she's going to let me out. Well, 28 days comes and goes and I'm still sitting there. I don't know-- no one's come to see me. No one's told me what's happening. And then I also am on antidepressants at this point, prescribed by the drug court doctor, Dr. Cox, that I've run out of 28 days into my visit and I'm not allowed to call or tell anyone that I'm out of medication. So now I'm coming off antidepressants. I'm taking Cymbalta and Seroquel, and I'm detoxing from both that I've been on for over a year. I have no way to fill a new script or tell anyone that I need any more meds.

Ira Glass

You can tell the guards, right?

Lindsey Dills

Yeah. I did tell the guards. I told medical. But they can't do anything. They can't fill the script within the jail.

Ira Glass

Her isolation cell was just a regular cell in the middle of the normal cell block. Four walls and a door. And sometimes other participants in the drug court would relapse and wind up in that cell block.

Lindsey Dills

I'm screaming through the door that I'm behind. Like, someone from drug court will holler up at me. And I told people leaving that were going to drug court to tell drug court, please just let me get my medications back. And no one ever comes and sees me.

Brandi Byrd

I was in the same dorm as her. But I wasn't in lock down.

Ira Glass

Brandi Byrd was another drug court participant in the Glynn County jail at the same time. She had also worked at Spanky's, though not at the same time as Lindsey.

Brandi Byrd

The cell next to hers, me and some of the other girls would go in there and talk to her through the wall, through the air vents.

Ira Glass

How do you do that?

Brandi Byrd

You just stand up on the toilet or the sink and get to the air vent and talk through it and they can hear you. Ask her if she was OK.

Lindsey Dills

They're not even allowed-- they're not really supposed to talk to me, these other inmates aren't. But I'm telling them, hey will you tell Gail to come see me to tell me what's going on-- my counselor-- they were going back to drug court. Drug court's telling them don't worry about me. They know where I am.

Brandi Byrd

I just check on her. Are you OK? Do you want my grandma to call anybody for you? Do you want something to eat? All she got to eat was the regular jail food, which is awful. So we'd slide her some ramen Noodles or some Kool-Aid or something under the door and try not to get caught.

Ira Glass

And how'd she seem?

Brandi Byrd

She was very, very depressed. That's why we kept checking on her. She was really depressed.

Lindsey Dills

I cried a lot. Pretty much all the time, I was crying. I was like, how is this happening? How is this ethical? Where am I? Am I in a foreign country? Have I killed someone that I don't know about? Like, how does what I did merit that type of treatment? But there's nothing I can do about it, because I can't even use the phone. I can't even send a letter.

Ira Glass

Weeks went by. Lindsey had no idea what was going to happen or when it was going to happen. Her public defender, Jason Clarke, was no longer with the drug court. And no other public defender came to check on her, she says. She also says that no doctor and no counselor from the drug court ever checked on her.

Lindsey Dills

I'm like, "Where do they do this?" I've never heard of it, and if it's even legal. And why isn't my family doing anything?

Ira Glass

The family, without Lindsey knowing, was trying to get answers from the drug court counselors about when she'd be coming out, about what the plan was, what was happening. Nobody tells them anything, they say. Lindsey's mom, Vikki, up in South Carolina, says as soon as Lindsey went into detention they were told that the judge put her in isolation, that she couldn't have contact with anybody, including the family.

Vikki Woodard

At that point in time I said something to Johnny. I said, "I have a good mind to go to the newspaper and tell them what they're doing to our child." And he said, "Oh, Vikki, you cannot do that. You don't Amanda Williams and the power she has down here." He said, "It's gotten worse since you've left." And he said, "You cannot do that."

Ira Glass

Because why? How could it be worse than your kid locked up indefinitely with no contact from the outside world?

Vikki Woodard

That it could be indefinitely longer. That she could make things really difficult for Lindsey.

Lindsey Dills

I kept thinking, there's no way she'll leave me here on Christmas. Typically when she leaves you indefinite you stay about 90 days, is what usually you'll see. So I'm thinking, there's no way that she's going to leave me here like this though Christmas. So December 8, someone came to jail from drug court on a sanction and they said, "Oh, well Judge Williams isn't having court again till January." She was gone. She'd gone out of town. She does it every December. She's not even going to be back until like, January 6. So this is the 9th and so I'm just like, I can't do it anymore. I'm completely a wreck by this point. I haven't seen any other human besides the people that come bring me food. And I'm not that stable anyway. And I can't figure out how this is helping me. So I'm like, "Whatever, she's going to send me to prison and I can't do prison."

So that night I'm like, "I can't do this anymore." We had a new officer on duty that doesn't know that when you get your razor you're supposed to give it back.

Ira Glass

You mean like a little Bic razor, that kind?

Lindsey Dills

Yeah. The little one blade in them. Like you buy, disposable razors. But I just broke it and took the blade out.

I have 15 minutes to use the razor. And then she came around to serve dinner. When she still didn't ask for it back, I realized at that point she wasn't going to. And then I slit my wrists and sat on the floor by the door. And they did a round 20 minutes later. Which is earlier than they normally would have done it. But she was changing shifts. And then that was when they found me. And then--

Ira Glass

Was your thought, I'm going to do this in a way where I get out of here? Or is your thought, I'm going to do this in a way where I'm dead?

Lindsey Dills

I actually hoped that I would die. But at the point that I figured then, well if I die, great. If I don't, at least someone will freakin' hear me. They'll have to send me somewhere. You know what I mean? They'll have get me some type of help.

And then the doctor that came in to do the stitches was like, "I can't believe y'all gave this girl a razor in the first place. How would you think that someone would feel staying in there like that? Like they're animals?" And he was like, "Who ordered this?" And they said, "Judge Williams." And he like, I remember him cussing her name up and down in the room. He was like, "I'm calling her myself." Duh duh duh.

He said, "I can't believe you would do that." He said, "What are you here for?" I said, "Drug court." And he was like, "Did you get in a fight or anything?" And I was like, "No sir." He was like, "What the hell, y'all? I mean, why didn't anyone tell any type of psych-- Have you even seen anybody?" I was like, "No sir." And this is all like, I'm under anesthesia at this point, talking to this guy. His name is Dr. Gunderson. He was really, really nice. He was really nice to me. But nobody can believe-- they're like, "We don't know. It's just what Judge Williams told us to do." The officers are feeling guilty. They're like, "We don't know. It's just what the order said."

Ira Glass

There's some things in this story that I cannot confirm. Dr. Jeff Gunderson declined my request to check out the facts of what Lindsey said about him and what he said. I can't confirm that her medication ran out and it was impossible for her to get a refill. I can confirm that Lindsey's drug court counselors did not visit her in jail, though. I was told that it's standard operating procedure in Judge Williams's drug court not to provide any treatment or counseling or even AA or NA meetings in jail, even though the National Association of Drug Court Professionals guidelines say they should.

In files at the jail and at the courthouse, I did find Judge Williams's order sending Lindsey into indefinite detention. Quote, "Until further order of the court." But nothing specifying solitary confinement. A jail official told me that it would be unusual-- but not unheard of-- for the judge to order that kind of thing. If Judge Williams hadn't ordered Lindsey into solitary, the only other way that she could have ended up there is if the jail's disciplinary committee held a hearing and put her there. I asked the jail to check and see if she had come before the disciplinary committee in October 2008. They told me that this raised privacy issues and that I needed to get Lindsey to sign a notarized document giving them permission to release this information. Lindsey is currently in a prison halfway across the state, so it took some doing to get a document to her and signed and notarized from behind bars.

But I managed that. When I presented this document to the Sheriff's office, which runs the jail, I was told that Sheriff Wayne Bennett had decided that although the notarized document from Lindsey would allow him to give me the information that I wanted, it did not mandate that he give it to me. So he did not. Lindsey's family did confirm that she tried to kill herself, that they got called with this news when it happened. Two and a half years later, Lindsey still has scars.

Lindsey Dills

Umm, those two are there.

Ira Glass

The right one looks OK. The left one you could still see two big--

Lindsey Dills

Yeah, they're better today than they were. My hand shook really bad from where I guess, I nicked some type of nerve. I don't do it real bad anymore. Just barely.

Ira Glass

I don't know. They're shaking.

Lindsey Dills

Yeah, I mean they shake, my wrists do, but--

Ira Glass

And did the counselors know that you had a history of cutting?

Lindsey Dills

Yes. Yeah. They did.

Ira Glass

And did Judge Williams know?

Lindsey Dills

Yeah.

Ira Glass

If they didn't know, they were missing out on some crucial information about her. The counselors and Judge Williams also had to know about any antidepressants Lindsey was on because the drug court contract specifies that they had to approve any medications that she used. And, according to court records, Lindsey had been on suicide watch before, two years before, on August 15, 2006. In spite of this, somebody ordered her into a cell for months, in isolation.

Coming up, Brandi, the girl who slipped ramen noodles to Lindsey, she has got quite a story too. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio on Public Radio International when our program continues.

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Today we're devoting our entire show to the story of one judge and one drug court. The judge is Amanda Williams, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of Glynn County, Georgia. She runs the drug court programs in Glynn, Camden, and Wayne County. And she runs them very differently than other drug court programs around the country.

One big way they're different? They pull in way more offenders than other drug courts. In 2009, according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, the Glynn and Camden County drug courts, run by Amanda Williams, were the biggest drug court operation in the state of Georgia. The biggest, with 378 participants. That is 48 more participants than the drug court in Fulton County. Fulton County contains the city of Atlanta. Fulton County has 10 times the population of Glynn and Camden Counties combined, yet its drug court was smaller. So what's Judge Williams doing to nudge so many people-- such a remarkably high number of offenders-- into drug court?

Brandi Byrd

This was back in December of 2005.

Ira Glass

You may remember Brandi Byrd, the young woman who stood on the toilet and had shouted conversations with Lindsey Dills in the Glynn County jail. How she ended up in drug court is a story that begins one night when she was out with friends.

Brandi Byrd

And my friend got pulled over for DUI. He was driving. They asked to search the car and my belongings, and I told them they could. I told them that I didn't have anything. Well, when they searched my purse, they found two Darvocets which were my mother's.

Ira Glass

Here's how they got there. Brandi and her family all say that a few months before, Brandi had an operation to remove some precancerous cells that could develop into cervical cancer.

Brandi Byrd

And I didn't have health insurance. So my mom had actually given me a couple pills to take instead of me filling my script for my own pain medicine. I never took them, so they were still in there. And I meant to give them back to her but it just slipped my mind. I had them in an Altoids Mint thing in my pocketbook. So when they found them, they asked me what they were and I told them that they were Darvocets and they belonged to my mom. I didn't realize they were in there. And they told me, "Well you know this is a felony drug charge." I said, "No, I didn't."

Well, they arrested me and I called my grandma, because I wanted to be bonded out. Well, then they told me, you do not have a bond until you see Amanda Williams. If you're arrested for a felony drug charge, you don't have a bond until you go before the judge. Most places, it's if you get arrested you have a bond immediately unless you're on a probation violation or, of course, if it was murder or something like that you would have to wait to go to court.

Ira Glass

That's actually a pretty good summary of the way it works in most courts in Georgia. Brandi's somebody who wishes that she could be a lawyer. She's got a head for it, too.

Brandi Byrd

So I freaked out about that. Just the fact of, I was stuck in jail and couldn't bond out.

Ira Glass

In Glynn County, you wait in jail on any drug charge to the next day that drug court cases come around. And it's just once a week. So Brandi sits in jail for six days before she's put in front of Judge Williams. She was charged with two felony counts, one for each pill. Darvocet is a Schedule IV drug under Georgia law. It's her first offense. She's 22.

OK, quick reality check. What would she get elsewhere in the state? Again here's Parag Shah, criminal defense attorney in Atlanta.

Parag Shah

And she has no record?

Ira Glass

No, no record.

Parag Shah

I would say in most courtrooms, that would be dismissed, either through an affidavit or testimony, or the mother saying that she gave it to the daughter.

Ira Glass

Worst case, he says, she'd be found guilty and then get probation, and then at the end of it have her record wiped clean. Bruce Harvey, who does drug cases around the state, agreed.

Bruce Harvey

What, for having two pills?

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Bruce Harvey

Are you kidding me? I can't imagine that it would get anything but first offender probation.

Ira Glass

Some counties, he said, might do a pre-trial diversion, send you to drug class for 16 weeks. Penny Penn, the District Attorney for Forsyth County, says in her county they would consider somebody like Brandi for pre-trial diversion or for the drug court.

Penny Penn

And if the person didn't go into drug court, then it would probably be a probation case. It's hard when you're dealing with such a small amount.

Ira Glass

OK. That's most places in Georgia. Here's what happened in Judge Williams's courtroom. After six days in jail, no bond permitted, Brandi goes before the judge. Brandi's grandmother, Ann Harris, who raised her, came to court too. She told me she knew Judge Williams before all this.

Ann Harris

She was the judge in Brandi's adoption. I always thought very highly of her at the time.

Ira Glass

But once they got to court, the message from everyone was the same. The public defender told Brandi, a drug court official told Mrs. Harris--

Ann Harris

If Brandi did not go into drug court, that she would go to prison. Because that was two felonies.

Brandi Byrd

And the drug court counselors were there. And they told me, "You're going to go to prison for one to five years if you don't do this program." I mean, that scared me. Because first of all, I've never been in trouble. And the thought of me going to prison--

Ann Harris

We were more or less-- we were threatened. I mean, we were scared of what would happen.

Ira Glass

From the bench, according to the court transcript, Judge Williams tells Brandi that her options are to go to trial, and if she's found guilty she'll get a year in detention plus four years probation. Judge Williams tells her that that's the minimum sentence her court gives on any drug charge. In a detention center, Brandi asks. Yeah, Judge Williams says. In a lock down detention. It's called a boot camp or, then the assistant district attorney jumps in, quote, "Where you pick strawberries all day. I mean, if you eat one, you'll get in trouble."

Elsewhere in the state, as you've heard, Brandi would get probation for this offense. But Judge Williams tells Brandi that she doesn't give straight probation in her court. Quote, "There's no such thing as putting you on probation. If you don't beat the rap, there's no street probation for charges in this county and hasn't been for seven years, since I've had drug court." She tells Brandi that if she doesn't choose drug court and wants to go to trial instead, it's a $15,000 bond to get out of jail. That's the standard bond she gives everyone. Former public defender in Glynn County told me that's high enough that most drug court defendants can't afford it.

Mary Helen Moses

I think people are being coerced into going to drug court.

Ira Glass

This is attorney Mary Helen Moses, one of the team of lawyers in Glynn County trying to unseat Judge Williams. She was the candidate who ran against the judge in the fall election.

Mary Helen Moses

A first time drug offense in Glynn County carries with it a $15,000 minimum bond. That's incredibly high.

Ira Glass

Why? What's it compare to elsewhere?

Mary Helen Moses

Oh, I'd say first time offenses, maybe $3,000, maybe $3,500. But I think what ends up happening is you've got a judge saying, "OK here, you can post a $15,000 bond or you can go into drug court and be released on your own recognizance. You can come before me in a trial on your drug charge. And it looks pretty bad to me, and if I find you guilty you're going to have a minimum sentence." I mean, that's an awfully hard thing, not to accept drug court under those circumstances.

Ira Glass

So in Judge Williams's court, there's no probation for anybody, even first offenders. No bond before you come in front of her. Then a $15,000 bond after you see her. A minimum sentence of 20 to 24 months in detention for most offenses, 12 months for minor ones. We couldn't find any drug court in Georgia that does anything like it to prod people into their programs.

Because drug court is supposed to be voluntary. If you push the wrong people in, you'll doom them to failure. And even though most drug courts create incentives to lure reluctant addicts into the programs, it's important that the defendants feel that they have a free choice to enter or not.

Brandi Byrd

I really didn't know what else to do. I didn't want to stay locked up. And I felt like if I did not get into drug court, then I would be sent to prison.

Ira Glass

Again, Brandi Byrd.

Brandi Byrd

And they told me that if I did not admit to using drugs and having a problem, then they would not admit me into drug court. So basically I told them what they wanted to hear. There was a counselor from drug court that came in and gave me a test and asked me about my drug use. And of course I told them, "OK, yeah I've done this and I've done that." But once I got into drug court I explained to them, "Look I did this so I wouldn't go to prison."

Ira Glass

As you'd expect, that didn't go down so well. Take Brandi's very first counseling session, a group session with about 20 other women.

Brandi Byrd

You're supposed to introduce yourself, what your charges are, and what your drug of choice is. I introduced myself. I told them what my charges was. I said, my drug of choice, "I smoke marijuana." I said, "But I'm charged with these pills and I'm not guilty of it. They were my mom's. I'm not a drug addict." And they just laughed about it and said I was in denial.

Ira Glass

But you could see why the would laugh. Because everybody who comes in to a--

Brandi Byrd

Yeah. And I understand that. I still didn't fit in with the people that were there. You know, the stories you hear in there of people giving their testimonies and things they've done, and how far along they were in their addiction. Shootin' up, selling their bodies for drugs, stealing from their families. I've never stole from my family. They said that my addiction just hadn't advanced that much because I hadn't sold my body for crack or drugs. I've never done crack. I never did any kind of heavy drug.

Ira Glass

Which brings up another question. Should a first time offender like Brandi-- or Lindsey for that matter-- be in a drug court program at all?

West Huddleston

Well I mean, we certainly know that drug court works best for the most seriously addicted and most criminally involved offenders.

Ira Glass

Again, West Huddleston, former drug counselor and coordinator. Now the head of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. When he describes the target population for drug court, note how different it sounds from Brandi, who only signed up because Judge Williams, her drug court employees, and the public defender made her feel she had no choice.

West Huddleston

Those individuals that drug court works best for have long histories of addiction, have multiple treatment failures, have been on probation multiple times, have probably served previous jail or prison sentences, but all driven by their addiction. If that's not the population that a drug court is seeing, then they're truly not going to have as good outcomes.

Ira Glass

And he says that when people who don't have long histories of addiction and criminality are thrown into a program that is designed for people who do-- these intensive treatment programs with all their monitoring and curfews and consequences--

West Huddleston

What happens is, they can become very defiant. Because it's too punitive. It's like, if you're too punitive with your child, they will become defiant.

Ira Glass

I have no way to judge whether or not Brandi Byrd was truly an addict. But she was a low-level offender and she absolutely became defiant. She didn't obey the terms of her drug court contract. Never bought in. Continued to drink. Got picked up on a DUI. Was sent to inpatient treatment, fled it, vanished from the program for 11 months, and eventually was kicked out. And then, served time for the two felony counts on the two Darvocet. Which was 20 months in detention. She just got out this December. She still has three years of probation, including regular drug tests. She's not allowed to drink, either.

Brandi Byrd

You know, I can admit that I made a mistake and that I violated the terms. But that much time for two pills? And I just felt like my whole life had just been snatched out from under me.

Ira Glass

It's important to note here that many people get through Judge Williams's drug court just fine. When I visited the court one day this fall, she didn't yell at anybody. If anything, she was encouraging, like an unusually maternal high school coach. Wandering up to people during the break, I met a guy named Perry Burton, who's been in and out of the drug court program for four years. He told me that when he first started, quote, "I hated that lady. I hated that lady from the bottom of my heart. But she got me off drugs. She's helped me more than anyone. She's got a heart. She's brought me close to my kids."

Even Judge Williams's opponents say that she's doing what she thinks is best for drug court participants. She believes in tough love, that people need to be woken up. And when I spoke with Judge Williams this fall, she also made it clear that she thought her drug court was no different from any other.

Judge Amanda Williams

All drug courts function just like this. My drug court is based on national drug courts. All of the forms that I use come from national drug courts. All of the methods that we use come from national drug courts. And what I do is exactly what other people in other drug courts have done for years and still continue to do.

Ira Glass

My best guess is that this was completely sincere. At the time she probably believed that. When I later learned otherwise, and sent her details about how her court was different, and asked for an interview about those differences, by then she'd stopped answering my calls. As for her success rate, this fall the drug court's clinical director, Steven Mansfield provided me with numbers showing that the graduation rate for the Glynn Camden drug courts was 48%. Below the national average and way lower than successful programs. Low enough, one expert said, it showed something was going wrong.

When I shared that information with the National Association of Drug Court Professionals and they approached Judge Williams about it, she provided them with different numbers, showing a 54% graduation rate, which isn't as good as the best programs, but it's on par with the national average.

There's one more case I want to share with you. And it's somebody who, unlike Brandi or Lindsey, went into drug court willingly.

Charlie Mccullough

I was 19. I was just before turning 20, and into things I shouldn't have been into.

Ira Glass

In May of 2001, Charlie McCullough went with some friends to a motel room to buy drugs, in Charlie's case LSD, and they were caught in a police sting. He got the same treatment that you've heard about. He was told that he needed a $15,000 bond to get out of jail, or he could do drug court and be released right away. Drug court seemed like a good deal.

Charlie Mccullough

I remember desperately wanting to get out of jail. It seemed like a good thing. I'd get to go to this counseling. And then-- I did want to do better, you know? And I figured if something like that, I was going to be monitored pretty much 24-7, it'd be more of an incentive to do the right thing.

Ira Glass

So Charlie enters the drug program, quits drugs. He'd been smoking pot every day, he says. And he liked Judge Williams.

Charlie Mccullough

I'd say all in all it was a good experience. And going to court, she sees this growth in you and she compliments on it. First impression, a great person. A really nice lady. I mean, my first two years, I was an advocate for the program. I was all for it. It felt like I turned a new leaf. And I did. I changed a lot about myself. I was happy the way things were going.

Jim Jenkins

Drug court is set up with four separate phases.

Ira Glass

This Charlie's lawyer, Jim Jenkins. He's one of the few lawyers who's ever come before Judge Williams who would talk to me on tape. And the reason that he did it is that he's a private attorney who does not live in Glynn County. Most of his practice is elsewhere. He says Charlie did great in the program.

Jim Jenkins

He was in the final phase of the program. He was just three months short of graduation. And he was called in for a random urine screen, which they do regularly in the program.

Charlie Mccullough

I went in there and I took the drug test. She said that it came up positive for methamphetamine.

Ira Glass

She, the drug counselor, not Judge Williams.

Charlie Mccullough

I knew I wasn't messing around. So I told her that wasn't right. They let me take another drug test.

Jim Jenkins

So she took another sample and gave him another test.

Ira Glass

And we should say this was just like, 20 minutes after the first test.

Jim Jenkins

Within 20 minutes. Exactly. And it came out negative.

Ira Glass

They took a third test. Same result.

Charlie Mccullough

And I passed it. I was under the impression when I left that night that, no big deal.

Ira Glass

You know just like sometimes there's a false positive, just some little mistake.

Charlie Mccullough

Right.

Jim Jenkins

And he talked with the drug counselors about this. And they were really on his side. Because Charlie had done absolutely perfectly for 22 months in the program and never had a bad screen, had never missed a meeting. In fact, he was such a good student that he mentored other participants. And he'd actually appeared in front of the county commissioners, asking them to allocate more money for the drug court program because it was such a great program.

Ira Glass

The next week it was a day when all the Phase Four participants were supposed to attend drug court.

Charlie Mccullough

And they say I've got to go in front of the judge for the drug test I failed. And that was a big shock to me. I told her, I didn't fail the drug test. I passed the second one. And she said that she was going to use the first one, that the second one didn't count.

Jim Jenkins

And he tried to explain to her and it goes back and forth with that. And Charlie finally says, "Your honor, may I speak please?"

Ira Glass

Actually do you want to read what he says there?

Jim Jenkins

Sure.

Ira Glass

It's page two of this transcript from March 11, 2003.

Jim Jenkins

Charlie says, finally says, "May I speak?" The court says, "yeah." And Charlie says, "I have no explanation for that at all. I don't. 20 minutes later I took another test. It was tested three times. I passed that, OK? I can't explain to you why. All I know is what I've done and what I haven't done, your honor." And her response to that is, "Well, you know, I don't believe you." Then it goes back and forth and they talk about the tests--

Ira Glass

Right, apparently one of the workers there named Alicia grabbed the cap for the little vial of pee from the trash--

Jim Jenkins

Right.

Ira Glass

And then Judge Williams says, "Now I don't believe that in a heartbeat." And Charlie says, "Ask Alicia. She'll tell you. She will not lie in court. She grabbed it out of the trash can."

Jim Jenkins

And then Charlie says, "I'm not going to go 22 months with clean time and then three months from my graduation to use." And Judge Williams responds, "Well people have done it."

Ira Glass

Judge Williams asked Charlie to take a polygraph and Charlie says, "Sure." And then she does not give him a polygraph. Alicia is not called as a witness to settle this question about the lid. And then, Judge Williams sentences Charlie to 17 days. In Charlie's treatment file it explains that the 17 days is comprised of two things.

Jim Jenkins

It was comprised of 3 days for having a bad drug test result and it was 14 days for questioning the result.

Ira Glass

Wait, wait. He got 14 days simply for saying, like, no, no, I don't think this is right.

Jim Jenkins

Because he questioned the result.

Ira Glass

Wait, but what law was he violating there? Isn't that what court is for? Isn't he supposed to-- isn't this the place where he's supposed to be able to say, let me tell you my side. Now you decide?

Jim Jenkins

Not this court. Not this court. If you question this court you get punished for it. And in this situation, because he questioned what was going on, he got 14 days extra in jail.

Ira Glass

In any drug court, that would be an unusually long penalty. 17 days for a first bad drug screen. But Charlie was also sent back to Phase Two of the program, which meant that he would be spending an extra year and a half in Judge Williams's drug court. His time in drug court just suddenly jumped from two years to three and a half.

Judge Williams freely admits that she gives harsher sentences to anybody who denies doing drugs when a drug test says they've done them. In fact, most drug courts do that. But we couldn't find one drug court that would levy so harsh a penalty on a first failed screen.

And the question that is raises is the most uncomfortable question people raise about Judge Williams. Is she just a hothead? Somebody who can't stand to be contradicted. Somebody who overreacts when argued with. And is that affecting her rulings? This came up in the fall elections. Jim Jenkins says that what's clear is that any drug court judge has unusual powers, powers most judges do not have and needs to wield them fairly.

Ira Glass

Now if somebody were unhappy with their treatment in the drug court, can they just appeal it? I mean usually in a court--

Jim Jenkins

No.

Ira Glass

No? Why not?

Jim Jenkins

There is no provision at all for any kind of appeal, and that's one of the other real problems with the procedures of this particular drug court. If Judge Williams sentences you to 30 days or an indeterminate sentence, there is nothing that can be done. Period. You can't appeal to the court of appeals. There's nobody to go to.

Ira Glass

And is the reason why there's no right to appeal because basically I've already pled guilty to my charge and so--

Jim Jenkins

That basically it. And you're in a treatment program. And these are sanctions that are supposedly designed to foster your treatment.

Ira Glass

In fact, I've seen orders that Judge Williams has issued where she instructs a 22-year-old woman to move in with her grandmother and grandfather, the people who apparently turned her in to the authorities in the first place, and, quote, "Follow any rules of their household." She ordered the same woman, Alyssa Branch, to go to a doctor and, quote, "Upon attending her medical appointment, defendant shall comply with all recommendations of Dr. Gowen. Should further medical procedures become necessary, defendant shall undergo said medical procedures." And on June 9, 2010, the same woman, Alyssa Branch, is ordered to inpatient treatment for a year at a place called Bridges of Hope with, quote, "No outside visitation passes, no visitation to the facility from any outside persons, and no contact with any outside persons." If this woman wished to contest any of these judge's orders, Jim Jenkins believes, she has no recourse.

Here's something else. When you enter Judge Williams's drug court she requires you to sign a piece of paper saying that no matter what happens, you won't go to any other judge but her. You won't recuse her. This also goes against the guidelines of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals. I know I'm saying that a lot this hour. If a person is in danger of being terminated from drug court, and that person wants another judge to take the case at that point, they're supposed to get it. Because at that point, the thinking is, the drug court judge knows too much personal information about the client to be an unbiased and impartial judge.

And so in cases like Brandi Byrd's, when she was terminated from drug court, another judge might have looked at the facts, the two pills, all that, and waived some of the 20 to 24 month sentence that Brandi agreed to as a condition of entering drug court. Brandi's lawyer tried to get Judge Williams to at least give Brandi credit for the four and a half months she served in jail waiting for her termination hearing. Sometimes Judge Williams chooses to do that. Here she doesn't even consider the possibility. In the court transcript Brandi's attorney says, "Can she get credit for time--" He doesn't even finish the sentence. He doesn't even say the word served. The judge says, "No sir. She does not. Let's go to the next case."

In Charlie's case, being told that he'd now be spending three and a half years in the program instead of just two, when he was so close to finishing and he'd never missed a meeting or failed a previous drug screen, it had exactly the result that research studies show is the problem with an overly punitive approach. It made him rebel. It made him give up. The harshness of Judge Williams's sentence took a model participant and turned him into a failure.

Charlie Mccullough

Once that day came it was a big-- it was like a big slap in the face. Everything I had pretty much put my trust into, kind of turned its back on me. I sat here and I dedicated 22 months of my life to changing it. And I felt like everything I had done was for nothing.

Ira Glass

And then December that year, you get screened positive for marijuana.

Charlie Mccullough

Yeah. You know, yeah. I'd smoked some pot. By that time I was over it. I didn't really care. I was just disappointed, extremely disappointed.

Ira Glass

A month later he missed his first group meeting and a warrant was issued for his arrest. It took him four years to get out of the program. He's clean now and doing great. He has a wife and two kids, lives in Virginia, builds bridges for a living.

As for the other two, Brandi's still adjusting after two years in detention. Working in a restaurant, trying to earn some money, get her life together. Lindsey gets out of detention this May. And she'll finally be through with the drug court program, though she has four and a half years of probation still. She's planning to do it up in South Carolina near her mom. She has a job lined up and a fiancee, and they're going to try to have a baby. The first time in years she has something she's looking forward to.

Her one fear is that Judge Williams will hear that she talked to me for the radio and do something punitive, like tell her to do her probation back home in Glynn County. In Glynn County, she says, so many people she used to do drugs with are still there. It's always been harder for her to stay clean. If the judge were to force her to stay there, she'd be setting her up for failure.

In his inaugural address this January, Georgia's new governor Nathan Deal made a big point of calling for more drug courts as a way to reduce the number of people behind bars and save money. His son, Superior Court Judge Jason Deal, runs the drug court in Hall County. Drug Courts have become one of those nonpartisan solutions that everybody, from the Republican governor of Georgia to the Democratic President of the United States, says they love. But as drug courts expand into more places and become more of a standard part of the criminal justice system, it's possible that they're changing.

One of leading researchers on drug courts, Steven Belenko-- he's been doing studies on them for 20 years; he's a professor of criminal justice at Temple University-- told me there no studies on this yet, But anecdotally he's noticing drug courts are becoming more punitive and more controlling.

Steven Belenko

Over time what's happened, drug courts have become routinized. So you see judges who are just kind of rotated into drug courts. And I've certainly talked to and heard about judges who were put into drug court who really have no interest or knowledge about addiction, addiction treatment. Not to criticize them at all. They're just not trained or invested in this model. So I think they take with them kind of the more typical judicial responses of, if you violate a judicial order you're going to be punished.

Ira Glass

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, about 150 of the nation's drug courts do not apply the principles of the drug court model correctly and are not having good outcomes as a result.

[MUSIC - "CARE OF CELL 44" BY THE ZOMBIES]

Eric Mennel helped me with the reporting for today's program.

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS]

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WBEZ management oversight for our program by our boss, Mr. Torey Malatia. You know, before he got a job in radio, he had a show that he did for his own family, transmitted only in their house, which isn't hard.

Woman

You just stand up on the toilet or the sink and get to the air vent and talk through it, and they can hear you.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass. Back next week with more stories of This American Life.

Narrator

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