YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Wednesday, in our In-Depth conversation, WKBN Community Affairs Director Dee Crawford spoke with Youngstown Municipal Court’s Judge Carla Baldwin about alternative court programs.

Judge Baldwin said they have three specialized dockets.

“Those are dockets approved by the Supreme Court, which allows individuals who have suffered from drug addiction, from a mental health disorder, from if they’re a victim of human trafficking. The court now has three specialized dockets that an individual can plead into,” she said. “And so I’m proud to preside over our drug court and veterans court and Judge DeSalvo presides over the human trafficking court.”

Some of the programming was already in place and Judge Baldwin has helped to maintain it, and there are others that she started.

“The Veterans Court, I inherited from my predecessor, Judge Milledge. He started that as a veteran himself. He recognized that there was a need to help individuals who had served our country and found themselves involved in the criminal justice system. So, I was proud to maintain that. I feel like that’s the least we can do for those who have given so much for our country,” Judge Baldwin said. “And then it was my goal to start a drug court when I ran. And so, thankfully, through the support of our community leaders, agencies and the support of city council and the mayoral administration, we were able to launch our drug court in January of 2020.”

The alternative courts are important because without them those individuals would be incarcerated, whereas if they go through those programs, their charges can be dropped and they can return to society and productivity.

“Absolutely. And that’s the goal, because I always tell people, once you’re in the system, we have you, we want to keep you at the misdemeanor level. We do not want you to go on, and we do not want you to come back. So, what we try to do is support individuals and say, okay, you need something. Let’s give you the resources, let’s give you the toolkit, and then let’s teach you how to apply it so you create a new default,” Judge Baldwin said. “And that way, when you leave our program, not only are you clean and mentally in a good state, but you’re ready to be a good neighbor, a ready to be a good employee and a good dad or a good mom. And it’s worth it, definitely worth it.”

The court is funded by the city. It is not self-sustaining.

“Through city council, like every department, and we get approved every year. And then our court has also been successful in applying for grants. So, drug court and veterans court also receives additional funding from our federal government. We apply for the Bureau of Justice Administration and that supports training and support to our program and as well as the governor has made funding available through the Ohio Mental Health and Drug Addiction Services Board,” Judge Baldwin said. “And thankfully, our local board leadership, Duane Piccirilli and Brenda Heidinger, have been instrumental in helping us secure those funds for our specialized dockets here as well.”

Baldwin also talked about victims of trauma and how the courts are helping them.

“You see so much layered trauma and so many individuals. We just say, oh, we have grit and we are tough in this city and we know we are. We have some amazing individuals, but a lot of that is just learned trauma. You just learn how to carry this monkey on your back, and you recognize once you get into the system, once you get some help, you don’t have to live like this,” she said. “And life doesn’t have to be that hard and that there are resources and amazing, amazing agencies out there who want to help move our community forward.”