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Jail diversion tactics will save money says District Court judge
Judge Craig D Hannah Pic: Cian Redmond

13 Jun 2019 / Law Society Print

Jail diversion tactics will save money says judge

The Department of Finance should look hard at the amount of money saved by keeping people out of custody, according to Judge Ann Ryan of the Drug Treatment Court.

“We are not funded at all. We don’t even have a poor box if somebody has no bus fare home,” she said.

“We try to keep people out of prison as much as possible,” she said.

Human rights lecture

Justice Ryan made her remarks after the annual human rights lecture at the Law Society last night. 

The talk was delivered by US Judge Craig D Hannah (pictured), who described the work of his drug treatment court in Buffalo, in upstate New York.

Judge Hannah has diverted almost five hundred users away from custody and into drug treatment programmes, since 2017.

A total of three drug users on the programme have died of overdoses.

“The bigger picture is that this is a wonderful way to save money,” said Justice Ryan.

“It also saves communities, saves families, and saves people who are so ill from their addiction.”

Participants in the Drug Treatment Court have a drug dependency and are referred after they have pleaded guilty or been found guilty of a non-violent crime, committed because of addiction.

Positive

Judge Ryan said she envied the success of Judge Hannah’s programme. “But we will keep going. We are very positive and very passionate and we intend to do as much as we can.”

Judge Ryan said that intervention for drug users right at the beginning of the court process is not currently available in Ireland.

She said that ancillary services such as probation, housing and health should be linked up to provide services to rehabilitate drug users.

Rehab

She said that knowing how participants are getting on in drug rehab helps her to decide whether an addict should have access to a child. 

“No one can pull the wool over my eyes,” she says.

The education programme gives participants a sense of self-worth, by helping them to develop skills, Judge Ryan said.

“Our participants can produce all sorts of things on computers and they are quite amazing.”

Judge Ryan said there are good laughs in her court as well and she tries to use language that those before her will understand. She keeps the court informal, using first names.

“I was told today my hair looked great,” she said.

“There’s always fun in tragedy, at some level, if we have a sense of humour, they have a sense of humour as well.”

 

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