Judge Stephen Manley gives hope to defendants suffering from mental illness and drug and alcohol addictions in his groundbreaking specialty Santa Clara County courtroom.
And he does it in small steps.
“There’s not a day that I don’t see change in people and I don’t need to see a lot,” said Manley. “If people are able to find their way to the courthouse, take their medications, it’s enough.”
Judge Manley says to change the behavior of addicted and mentally ill inmates and keep them from coming back to prison, patience is critical.
“If you can get out of yourself and understand where they’re coming from. If you have even the faintest understanding of how difficult it is to survive when you’re hearing voices every minute you’re awake,” said Manley, that will provide key insight.
Two decades ago Judge Manley developed the nationally acclaimed courtroom offering defendants outside treatment and counseling to avoid more prison and jail time if they stick with the programs and stay out of trouble.
Today his program includes veterans like Raphael Hall who says he returned from service in the Middle East with addictions and mental health problems and got into trouble.
Under Manley’s direction, Hall has had mental health treatment at the Veteran’s Center and drug and alcohol counseling for a year and a half.
“The process it wasn’t easy. It was hard to shake some of my bad habits, but I did it at the time and [with] his patience,” said Hall. “Having somebody on his level just having faith in you, that don’t even know you [but] have faith in you just because everybody deserves a chance.”
Like all of the graduates of Judge Manley’s program, Hall got a round of applause and a hug before hopefully leaving the courtroom for good.
And Judge Manley says that’s the point of his program.
“When someone says to me ‘You know, I’ve got this down. I don’t need you anymore,’ that’s good stuff!”
By Beth Willon