Tonight the Garland Bar Association hosted the County Criminal Court judges. I am purely a civil lawyer, so that these evenings are always glimpses of worlds in which I do not live. This year both veteran judges and newly-elected judges were among the guests. They were all interesting, and although they had different opinions on different issues, the heart and conscience in each of them stood out. They were a contradiction to the grim stereotypes of inferior court judges as heartless or unduly bureaurcratic.
The local county faces the same pressures many locations face--too many people sent to jail for too many reasons into jail systems too inadequately funded to handle them. I favor strong sentences for those who commit violent crimes, but so many inferior crimes are not well-addressed with the "jail first, ask questions later" approach. I should clarify, a bit--there are some folks who commit even minor crimes who need the extreme of jail time to appreciate the gravity of the situation. So often, though, people get caught up in the system. In Dallas County, a goodish few got "literally" caught up, when the local processing computer "lost" them in the jail system.
I am always impressed with how our local judiciary does not play the party politics card too often, and how they all want to do the right thing. The whole experience was uplifting, and gave me hope.
Ounces of prevention and pounds of cure. I wish we could find ways to invest many, many more ounces on prevention. These judges, I believe, do what they can--and now I wish we did more to help people avoid the extremes that lead to bad judgment in the first place.