Monday, December 18, 2023

'Success is a journey'

     You don’t often see a judge cry.
     But Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lauren Edidin was repeatedly brushing away tears on Thursday — though she would be quick to point out it was not in her own courtroom but at a decidedly emotional event: the latest graduation ceremony of the Skokie Mental Health Court.
     “I’m really going to try not to cry,” she told those gathered at the 2nd Municipal District courthouse in Skokie.
     Mental Health Court is one of three types of Cook County’s 20 “problem-solving courts.” The other two are veterans court and drug court. Rather than trying to punish non-violent offenders — the accused must plead guilty to participate — these courts try to address the problems that pave the way for criminality.
     The work is time-consuming, often frustrating, occasionally rewarding environments where members of the legal community band together, often in their spare time — Edidin was praised for devoting her vacations to the effort — to help disentangle those caught in the legal system.
     “We help participants learn how to live and succeed with their illness,” Edidin said. “This program exists to help participants find long-term housing, set up treatment plans, receive job training, obtain insurance and Social Security benefits. The program formulates individual plans, based on participants’ specific needs.
    “That is so important. With that, they have a higher likelihood of success. Our program supports participants with kindness, understanding, tough love and encouragement,” she said.
     Emotions were high not only because Deborah L., Ashur N., Lamont O. and Kathy R. were celebrating their exit from the criminal justice system, but Edidin was retiring after 12 years on the bench. That was why Chief Judge Timothy Evans took the time to be there, along with about 50 fellow judges, public defenders, assistant state's attorneys, staffers and family members.

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  1. In a world where I have to see stories about Trump every day, it warms my cockles to see a story like this. Thank you.

  2. I agree that the stories of "problem solving courts" are heartwarming and important on many levels. Besides that, the column/blog reminded that it wasn't all that long ago that a female judge was an anomaly as was a Black judge. Not that they didn't exist, but they were few and far between. Now, we've had a Black Chief Judge in Cook County for more than 20 years and judges who are female having been serving long enough to retire. Neil's 10-year-old blog published today coincidentally deals with social changes (What color is the Easter Bunny?) so adamantly opposed by Fox News people and their ilk who prefer the somnolence of the willfully ignorant to the 21st century "wokeness" they despise.


    1. "...Fox News people and their ilk who prefer the somnolence of the willfully ignorant to the 21st century "wokeness" they despise." Very nicely put, John. A pithy characterization of one of the main problems contributing to the popularity of the criminal ex-president.

    2. Sorry, but that black chief judge of Cook County is an utter incompetent, which is what anyone would expect from a former Chicago alderman!
      The Cook County courts are a mess & he's the reason for it.
      The Tribune ran an extensive review of the court system a while back & it's decades behind all other big city court systems in the country in everything!

    3. It's me Anne Marie Bassett. I hope you are reading these messages. You were my judge, my savior, my support!! For both me and my son Zachary. He's in highschool now. And me tired every day. Working hard as possible to make the best life for my son. That's all I ever wanted. And you gave me the chance to accomplish that!! You have been a positive attribute more than you know!! Best wishes. Anne Marie Bassett

  3. Problem solving courts are a proven intervention that has helped so many people. Early courts in Cook County were some of the first to start up drug courts. (1980’s) if you keep at something long enough, it will catch on! See early research on drug courts by Dr. Michael Finigan.

  4. Thank you so much for this column, and for alerting me to the documentary. I was familiar with Mental Health Court, but had not heard about the documentary before. The film is 1.5 hrs long and every minute watching it was time well-spent. I can see why it won the 2021 award. It will only be available for free viewing until 12/28, per the PBS website. Its the most realistic presentation of the struggles living with chronic mental illness I have seen in a very long time. I am grateful for the opportunity to have seen it.


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