Judge John Creuzot Leaving the Bench. Let's Hope Someone Else Keeps His Work Going.

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Stunned and disappointed to learn this morning that Dallas felony court Judge John C. Creuzot will leave to go into private practice after two decades on the bench. In terms of the law and courts -- hell, in terms of government itself -- Creuzot is a great example of what goes right.

Citing financial need, Creuzot has announced he will retire at the end of the year after 21 years on the criminal bench, where he has been a pioneer in diversion programs and other innovative efforts.

Efforts at what? Efforts at getting people to stop committing crimes. Isn't that at least an important part of what we want to do?

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Judge John Creuzot
We're not going to take everybody who breaks into a car, line them all up against a wall and shoot them, much as we might like to if we happen to be the car-owner. So even if we do want to lock them up to punish their asses, don't we also need to find a way to get them to stop being fools and assholes when they get out?

That's where Creuzot has concentrated his most imaginative and effective work with so-called diversion, working with county probation professionals to find ways other than prison to get people to straighten up. None of which is easy. I talked to him about it this morning.

"Diversion is more than just a word," he said. "Diversion is a concept. It's a process. It's what we do here. We start off with clinical assessments and mental health assessments if necessary. We take a holistic approach."

Don't be put off by his use of the word, "holistic." If you're like me, you may have a subconscious tendency to associate that with Whole Foods. In Creuzot's usage, it's more like, "We own your ass, and, by the way, we do not trust you. Yet."

"It's very structured," he said. "There's a lot of accountability. We try to take away their free time that's otherwise spent hanging out."

Take it way how? Just take it away, take it all away. That's how.

"We put them in either inpatient or outpatient treatment. We monitor them."

Monitor how? He means seriously monitor.

"We monitor their drug usage by urine, hair, saliva whatever. We use patches. We use bracelets that will monitor alcohol usage. Then we have a system of responses for that. "Of course the most important response would be treatment response, not a jail response. We use graduated sanctions. We start off by talking. We go up from more counseling to maybe inpatient counseling and sometimes short periods of incarceration."

Treatment? What treatment? The whole universe of treatment and private corrections is rife with programs that are nothing but rip-off bullshit. For that very reason, Creuzot says he and the probation professionals pay particular attention.

"What's important is the treatment program itself. What is the treatment program? What are you actually delivering, and how are you delivering it? If you are just telling them to read the newspaper every day, that's not a treatment program. You know what I'm saying?"

So in the back of my mind, I have always wanted to ask Judge Creuzot one thing. Does he believe in diversion because he does not believe in prison? I asked him this morning. Nope. He says prison can work, too.

"I've had people come back and thank me for sending them to the penitentiary," he said. "They said it's what they needed."

So what's the answer? Diversion works. Prison works. Sometimes. Why we can't we do one or the other? I think what Creuzot's work reveals is that life is complicated.

Maybe you think that bad guy down the block needs to be sent to the pen. But you think it would be a tragedy for your own brother to get sent there, even if the two of them did the same crime. Together.

And maybe you're exactly wrong. Maybe the only way to save your brother is five years in state. Maybe the only way to save the guy down the block is treatment.

That's where and why we need to have really smart committed professionals in the system, people who know the ground and have some experience on which to base these tough judgment calls. It's why we need that kind of person in government.

It's a cop-out, a self-defeat, a dereliction of civic duty to get too cynical about it. Just because some of it may not work, we can't afford to just throw up our hands and say none of it works, ever.

Oh, anyway, I just hate to see a guy like Creuzot leaving the bench and leaving government. He'll do great on the outside. In fact, just knowing that I could hire him as my criminal attorney, I might be more tempted now to go out and commit some crimes.

Fortunately as a young man I found my way into my own excellent diversion program. It's called journalism. I need to ask Creuzot if they've ever tried journalism careers on these guys who keep breaking into cars. Especially nowadays with blogging, it seems like a shorter hop.

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13 comments
dthomas131
dthomas131

I came through Judge Creuzot's diversion program in 2001. I have been clean since. I was able to address issues in the program that I had been running from all of my life. Today, I am involved in my children's lives, just received my associates degree and am transferring to university for my BSW. There are too many accomplishments to share here, but all of them are a direct result of his faith in the recovery process, and the worth of people, even the addict!


trudat
trudat

Judge Creuzot was a Republican worth voting for.  I wonder how long we'll have to wait to find another one like him.

TomNowak
TomNowak

I'm honored to have worked in Judge Creuzot's court as a new felony prosecutor for a year.  It's one of the reasons i'm running for his bench.  Trust me when I tell you that if I'm half as good of a judge, Dallas County will still be in good shape.  I know most of the readers of the Observer tend to skew to the left, but they should consider voting for a Republican like me.  As a former prosecutor who tried child abuse cases, you don't have to worry about any conspiracies!  As it is a state judgeship, you don't have to worry about the pay check coming from the county (the county only pays a small portion of the salary and the felony judges have reached their max allowed by law)! And since I have criminal defense experience, in addition to prosecutorial, Jim should sleep easier at night.

www.VotingForTom.com

Rix1
Rix1

Best judge in the state. 

JerrySandusky
JerrySandusky

"Citing financial need" ??? - it's a freaking government job. How shatty do you have to be with money to have "financial need" after working a government job for 21 years. What is he doing with it all, smoking it?

lisa.dawn
lisa.dawn

I am sure Judge Creuzot has done many good things where petty crimes are concerned. However, when it comes to the lives of young children, Creuzot has been involved in what has gone WRONG, not RIGHT. In Dallas County there is a repeated pattern of corrupt judges who aid and abet through selective non-prosecution of child sex abuse cases. There are many cases of state judges taking bribes from the State Bar of Texas fixing the outcomes of their cases to favor their economic interests.

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

Great judge and a gentleman.  This is a loss to Dallas County and a preventable one.  We are not paying our judges enough.  Please mention to your county commissioners and state legislators that we are losing our best jurists to private practice because we're simply not paying enough.  We don't even have to pay close to what they can make off the bench; most of these people have a heart for public service.  But it's more than a full time job we're asking them to do, and we need to pay at a level that keeps them on the bench.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Wasn't Creuzot the judge who when  sentencing the high school football dumbasses who robbed the Blockbusters said...'if stupidity was a crime you would all deserve life sentences'? 

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

 @lisa.dawn, it's all true, but it's much worse than that.  I know for a fact that he's working for the Trilateral Commission.  I saw George H. W. Bush leaving a dead drop package for him in Union Station.  There's a repeated pattern of fictional international cabals working against child abuse prosecutions.

 

DON'T take your meds!  That's what They want you to do.

Double-O-Joe
Double-O-Joe

 @jerikjonsson 

But in Dallas County, high-paying jobs become handouts from those in power to their friends and relatives.  Raise the salary and no responsible jurists will make the cut behind those profiting from nepotism.

lisa.dawn
lisa.dawn

@jerikjonsson @lisa.dawn Yes, the pharmaceuticals a big part of the cabal. Can you share more about the dead drop package??? Do you remember what year that was?

jerikjonsson
jerikjonsson

 @Double-O-Joe, judges only get to the bench in Dallas County through appointment by the Governor or election by the People.  I hate that we have partisan judicial elections; it's an inherent conflict with judicial impartiality.  But the commissioners do not pick our judges.  And the salaries we're talking about here certainly would attract the attention of those seeking patronage if that were possible.  I think Creuzot was making less than $160K.  My point is that $160K is not enough to retain good talent on the bench.  You don't have to break the bank to retain judges; I think $200K would do it.

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