Disgrace in drug court

Disgrace in drug court

One Georgia drug court attracted widespread national attention over the past year.

In January, Amanda Williams, the chief judge in Brunswick who presided over Georgia’s largest drug court, resigned in disgrace amid charges that she behaved in a tyrannical manner and locked up some drug court defendants indefinitely, with orders they have no access to their family or lawyer.

One woman given an open-ended sentence by Williams in 2008 attempted suicide after two months in jail. The woman had previously been flagged for having suicidal tendencies.

Judicial Qualifications Commission charges also accused Williams of using “rude, abusive and insulting language” to some of her drug court defendants.

University of Pennsylvania senior scientist Douglas Marlowe, a national expert on drug courts, said it is critical that accountability courts operate according to standards.

“I’m here to tell you — do it right — and you will save a lot of money and increase public safety,” he said. “The research is unambiguous about this.”

The drug court model is not about breaking someone down, Marlowe added. “The goal is to say look, ‘You have this illness. You may or may not be responsible for the illness, but you are responsible for your recovery. You are responsible for your behavior.’ Nobody should be yelling in your face in a drug court.”

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