June CBA Report

A t a time when our country is realizing that we can’t arrest ourselves out of some of our most pressing crim- inal justice issues, the Hamilton County judicial system is proactive in creating treatment-focused approaches whenever possible. CHANGE Court is the newest Ohio Supreme Court certified specialty docket for adults in Hamilton County, joining VETS Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Drug Court. CHANGE stands for: C hanging H abits A nd S etting N ew G oals is E mpow- ering. It is a voluntary, judge-supervised treatment program for those charged with prostitution and related offenses, only the third of its kind in Ohio. If a person chooses CHANGE Court, I place them on two years of intensive supervision probation. Proba- tion conditions include 90 days of jail-based treatment offered by Talbert House, followed by residential treatment, a minimum of twice weekly random, observed urine tests, an individualized treatment plan, job training and weekly status reports with me. Inception In February 2014, two Cincinnati Police officers approached me to help create a systemic change in the way that our crim- inal justice system treated prostitutes. They explained that most prostitutes are heroin addicts, and they feed their addiction by engaging in prostitution. The criminal justice system offered no help to them, as the jail has no room to hold non-violent, low level offenders. Once arrested, they were released from jail and cited back to court. But they never would return to court. So the prostitutes were not getting help, and communities such as West McMicken Avenue (known as “McTricken”) also got no relief from the crime and litter that accompany prostitution hot spots. The West McMicken community council wanted their neighborhood back, and they wanted help for the prostitutes who were mothers, daughters and sisters to community members. The police asked that I preside over all defendants charged with prostitution and related offenses with a focus on treating their co-occurring issues of addiction, trauma, mental diagnoses, and homelessness. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? The police did not know that they were describing a specialty court, but I was familiar with the concept, having taken over Judge Stautberg’s Mental Health Court several years earlier. I had never thought that a Municipal Court judge could do anything to deal with the heroin problem. While listening to the police, I realized that if I created a human trafficking docket I could tackle one corner of the heroin problem, and also help some of the need- iest, most vulnerable “criminals” that appear in Municipal Court. With the help of an Advisory Board consisting of multiple agen- cies, CHANGE Court unofficially accepted its first participant in July 2014. Having worked out most of the glitches and gaps in our processes, and with 15 CHANGE Court participants, in November 2016 I submitted CHANGE Court’s application for Ohio Supreme Court Specialty docket certification, documenting over 80 Supreme Court -mandated standards. In January 2017, There’s a CHANGE in the Wind By Hon. Heather S. Russell 6 l June 2018 CBA REPORT www.CincyBar.org Cover Article