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Drug Court: The Criminal Justice System Rolls the Rock, Part 1

Drug Court
Judge Haley (Ret.) congratulates Sobriety Court graduate

In this episode of Justice Speaks, JSI Founder Judge Brian MacKenzie (Ret) speaks with Judge Michael Haley (Ret.), about his upcoming article to be published in the Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law, entitled “Drug Court: The Criminal Justice System Rolls The Rock.” Judge Haley says that his recent retirement as a judge from the 86th District Court in Traverse City, Michigan, provided him an opportunity to step back and take a deep dive into the scientific literature about Drug Treatment Courts and to combine that with his own personal experience in developing a DWI/Drug Court, to create a unique perspective about drug treatment courts.

The discussion focuses on his struggle to create a DWI/Drug Court, known in Michigan as a “Sobriety Court,” at a time when Drug Treatment Courts were not well-known. The title of the article is a classical reference to the punishment of Sisyphus by the Greek gods, where he was required to roll a rock up a mountain, and every time he neared the peak, the rock rolled back down to the base. Judge Haley argues that at the time he became a judge, the criminal justice system’s approach to sentencing drug dependent defendants was as effective as the efforts of Sisyphus.

Drug Court Provides Hope

Drug Court
Drug Treatment Courts provided hope to the judge.

During the course of the interview Judge Haley discusses how Drug Treatment Courts and specifically his own Sobriety Court, changed his view of sentencing and offered him something he believes is necessary for judges in the criminal justice system — hope. Judge Haley believes that Drug Treatment Courts not only improve the lives of the individuals who participate, but offer a relief from the cynicism that seems to be a common problem for judges.

Judge Haley says that he was lucky to be exposed to the Drug Court model in its early years and that presiding over a Sobriety Court changed how he did judging for all cases. This in turn made him a better judge. The interview presents an in-depth discussion about Drug Treatment Courts and a revealing insight into one of the pioneering judges who helped change the criminal justice system.

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