doris l. downs – treating the issues

photo by steed media service

Chief Judge, Fulton County Superior Court

If the “rehabilitation vs. incarceration” debate for nonviolent drug
offenders had been posed to Fulton County’s Chief Judge Doris Downs
years ago, then serving time would have been her ruling without
question. However, once she began to assist with the operations for the
county’s rehabilitation program, she gained a more comprehensive
understanding of the personal battles that come with drug addiction.

“When I started as the drug court judge, I was against second chances,”
explains the distinguished jurist. “I thought, ‘this program is so
slack and they just let people keep coming back.’ But what I’ve learned
is that treatment, whether chosen or forced, is effective. And for some
[people], it takes more than once to make up their mind to live a clean
life. That is a hard decision to make for someone who has been addicted
to drugs for 20-[plus] years.”

Now, more that seven years since she began working with the program,
Downs has witnessed over 250 offenders go through the program and gain
a new lease on life. “The ripple effect of taking one person and
treating them is amazing,” she asserts. “If you treat offenders who are
addicted to drugs instead of convicting them, there is a 70 percent
chance they won’t re-offend. So we should be spending our money on
dangerous criminals and [in turn] treating those who are not. Right now
we’re getting all these convictions and people are getting longer
records, but this is just a perfect example of winning at losing.” – jamana jamison

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