March 15, 2009
Using tax dollars to turn lives around is money well-spentLos Angeles Times | by Steve Lopez
Judge Michael Tynan stepped down from the bench and congratulated five criminal defendants who had turned their lives around. His voice cracked as he told them how proud he was, and then he threw a party and passed out pieces of chocolate cake, with hugs all around.
In Orange County Superior Court, a beaming Judge Wendy Lindley congratulated felons on their successful reforms and then led the cheers, with spectators and court personnel joining in.
In Santa Clara County Superior Court, Judge Stephen Manley peered from his bench at 10 shackled inmates and said:
"The purpose of our program is very simple. We want to get you out of jail, and we want you to stay out."
Readers sometimes ask me whether, in addition to writing about government at its worst, I could give more examples of tax dollars put to good use.
Today I offer you Exhibit A.
I've been in a lot of courtrooms over the years, but I've never seen anything like the scenes that played out before judges Tynan, Lindley and Manley.
In each case, the defendants who stood before them were battling chronic mental illness. And in each case, the judges had long ago recognized the madness of locking people up, at great public cost, for being sick.
"We can't expect better outcomes without changing what we do," Lindley said.