Judge Paul Herbert used to punish the doped-up, dead-eyed prostitutes who would stand – some, with great effort – in Columbus’ Franklin County Municipal Court to cop a plea and accept fines they couldn’t pay anyway, says the Columbus Dispatch. These women are arrested repeatedly – one of them 36 times. They clog the court system and burden overcrowded jails, where the room rate is $70 a night.
Herbert’s answer was to start a new court that requires the women to get treatment for drug addictions that often underlie their crimes. The experiment, barely nine months old and still small-scale, is already paying off. Of the 29 women who joined the program, 19 stuck with it. Before, those in the group averaged 101 nights a year in jail. They have averaged about nine days in jail since the program began. The county went from spending $205,030 a year to lock up these women to $18,720. More incalculable, Herbert believes, is the value of saving lost souls. “These ladies are the most appreciative individuals I’ve ever met,” he said. “The world has literally crushed them.”