Pubdate: Tue, 17 Oct 2006
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2006 The Decatur Daily
Author: Eric Fleischauer, Daily Business Writer
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


The state is losing the war on drugs, and stiffer penalties are not 
the answer, according to a candidate for the state Court of Criminal Appeals.

Democrat Deborah Paseur, a district judge in Lauderdale County, helps 
run the drug court there. The effort, which uses innovative 
approaches to try to help defendants get off drugs without sitting in 
jail, is a step in the right direction, she said.

"The goal is to help these people get good recoveries and become good 
citizens," Paseur said in a recent editorial board meeting at THE 
DAILY. "People not trained in the drug-court philosophy don't understand it."

Not only are prisons full, Paseur said, they are not always the best answer.

"We don't do enough treatment in prisons," Paseur said. "We don't 
have enough transition programs. You can't expect people to do a lot 
better without those."

She said community corrections programs are the best solution for 
many nonviolent offenders. Sending people away from the community to 
prison often means they come back to the community as hardened criminals.

"Trial judges have to carefully decide who goes to the limited prison 
cells we have," Paseur said. "We need to ask, 'Does this particular 
offender need to be in jail?' People should be given the least 
restrictive punishment that will work."

That said, the punishment must meet the goals of the criminal justice 
system: rehabilitation, punishment, retribution and restitution.

"Those goals are not met," Paseur said, "if a judge is too lenient. . 
Our No. 1 job is protection of society."

Paseur said she does not impose her religious beliefs on offenders, 
but her faith constantly guides her in her duties.

She is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Florence and is 
active in the Emmaus Walk program.

"Every human life is sacred and valuable. Every person is one of 
God's children," she said. "No one should strip them of their dignity."


She said she often gives offenders an "old-fashioned chewing-out," 
but never humiliates them. That approach, together with careful 
sentencing, sometimes helps offenders find a better way of life.

"I've had people say I saved their lives," she said. "That's a 
humbling experience, that God has used me for that. ... I believe in 
miracles. Once in awhile we have one."

Paseur, who has served four terms as district judge, is a past 
president of the Alabama District Judges Association. She was a 
founding member of Safeplace, a domestic violence shelter, and Big 
Brothers Big Sisters of the Shoals.

Paseur will oppose Republican Judge Sam Welch in November.

Paseur, hitting the campaign trail hard, was tired.

"I have a sincere desire to serve the people of Alabama in this 
position," she said. "That's why I'm killing myself to get it."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman