“Proposition 36 really applies to the low-level drug offender who has no other conviction. To that extent it places Drug Courts somewhat to the side. The people who would be now eligible for Drug Court would still be low-level drug offenders, but somewhat more serious,” he says. “They would have perhaps also a conviction for theft or burglary or something else related to their drug addiction. They wouldn’t be stealing or breaking and entering were it not for their need to score their next hit of drugs. It’s that type of more serious offender who warrants the more intense supervision, who needs the court resources that Drug Courts have to offer.”
The rest of them, it appears, will not experience the odd warmth — odd because it is actually present in a courtroom, not the most comforting of places — that distinguishes Drug Court from another judicial experience.
That was the feeling the afternoon that I stopped by Judge Marcus’ court. It took a few hours to work through everyone who had been required to show up. From a teetering stack of paperwork on his judicial bench, Marcus read a report on each one, detailing the progress of recovery from longtime drug addiction. Every time the judge announced that the defendant in front of him was ready for “graduation,” the whole crowd broke into applause.
When everyone had had their moment with the judge, there was still one guy in the back. Judge Marcus looked at him, recognized him and said, “Didn’t you graduate?”
“I just came by to say hello!” said the fellow, a cheerful African-American man who looked to be in his early 30s. And he launched into his story of how he was now clean and opening his own business. The judge said he had an event coming up where he needed some successful graduates to demonstrate how Drug Court works. He asked his new buddy for his phone number.
Webmaster's note: When this story was intially posted, its main text was not Jonathan Vankin's piece but rather David Shulman's "Chemical Me" from elsewhere in this issue. The text above is Jonathan Vankin's actual article. The Webmaster wishes to apologize for any confusion that might have resulted from an error that was entirely his.