The Judge Who Keeps People Out of Jail

Since 2018, Judge Jason Lidyard of Rio Arriba County, N.M., has forged a new model for a drug court. Instead of demanding abstinence from drugs as the price to stay out of jail, Lidyard uses respect and personal relationships to seek a redefinition of success: making substance abuse less deadly and less socially crippling. Violating the court's requirements to get treatment results in more help, not jail. The less punitive approach seemed to reduce overdoses until a new fentanyl surge complicated the picture. Almost all of the people who've gone through the court have avoided new felony arrests.

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