Fly In The Drug Court Ointment

You remember drug courts, right? The alternative to sentencing addicts to expensive jail sentences, cheaper than traditional lock-em-up approach to crimes of drug use, designed to turn drug abusers into productive citizens instead of ex-cons? Governor Deal touted them in January. His son runs one in Hall County. Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein supports them. Creative Loafing has noticed, and so has Jim Galloway. Democrats and Republicans alike hail them as a better way to deal with the drug problem and save the taxpayers money.

Except, apparently, in Glynn County Georgia.

The radio program “This American Life” recently highlighted the unusual aspects of Glynn County’s drug court. It’s the most outrageous and important 59 minutes you’ll listen to this year. Do so HERE. Podcast version available HERE. Transcript HERE.

The Glynn/Camden Drug Court is run by Judge Amanda Williams, and is unlike any other drug court in Georgia, or the nation for that matter. How? For starters, there’s no such thing as probation for drug offenses in Glynn County, and hasn’t been since Judge Williams began the drug court. If you’re charged with a drug offense –first offense, personal use, any drug offense- your bail is set at $15,000. Since small-time drug offenders are generally outside the demographic that can swing a $15,000 bond, and don’t want to stay in jail any more than anyone else does, they “choose” drug court. Some meetings, some counseling, weekly drug tests and they’ll be out in a year and a half, based on the national average. Who wouldn’t choose drug court over jail time? As a result, Glynn County (population 79,000) has more people enrolled in drug court than Fulton County (population > 1 million).

Lindsey Dills

But Amanda Williams’ drug court is different. In the case of Lindsey Dills -a high school senior who fell in with the wrong crowd, started using drugs, and wound up in Judge Williams’ drug court for forging $100 worth of checks from her father’s account- it’s turned into more than 5 and ½ years in drug court, 14 months behind bars, then another 5 years and 6 more months behind bars –then 4 years of probation. Doesn’t sound like the taxpayers saved any money in that case.

Amanda Williams’ drug court sentences are exceptionally harsh. The national average for someone who resumes using drugs during their drug court sentence is 12 or 24 hours for a first relapse, and only after other methods (warnings, fines, extra monitoring) haven’t worked. In Georgia drug courts, it’s a day or two in jail on a first relapse. In Judge Williams’ drug court, it’s 3 days for a first relapse. Then seven. Then 28. Then? Indefinite.

You read that right: People in Georgia are being sentenced to indefinite stays in jail –not in Libya, or Turkey, or by some fake general in a third-world banana republic, but by Amanda Williams, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of the Brunswick Circuit. The court records say indefinite means “until further order of the court,” which can mean a couple of months, or sometimes longer, or “until they get a better attitude,” or “until I’m ready for you,” as the Judge is reported to say. If Judge Williams goes on vacation and doesn’t feel like seeing you again until after Christmas, after your anti-depressant meds have run out, and you’re in solitary confinement not permitted contact with friends, family or anyone, well then you can just kill yourself. Which is what Lindsey Dills tried to do in December of 2008.

Judge Amanda Williams

According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, this is not how drug courts are supposed to work. They are designed to reduce drug use, reduce crime, repair families, hold addicts accountable and restore them to meaningful roles in society. When they work, they do that cheaper and more effectively than the traditional justice system. But to work, addicts in drug courts need intensive treatment, close supervision and frequent appearances in court, so a judge can monitor their progress. A judge who relies on punishment in drug court doesn’t understand the concept of drug court, doesn’t understand addiction and doesn’t care about saving money. And a judge who blithely locks people away indefinitely has clearly gone Captain Queeg crazy.

Judges have a lot of power, and drug court judges have even more. That power, virtually unchecked, is a serious weakness in the drug court system. Judge Williams has been on the bench since 1990 and was easily re-elected last fall. She has her detractors, but has run the drug court in Glynn County since its inception in 1998. It belongs to her, as it should, since no decent Georgian would wish to lay any claim to it. Decent Georgians hope and pray the Glynn County drug court is an exception to well-run, professionally managed such courts in our State, and that Judge Williams is an outlier among Georgia judges with better judicial temperaments and the character to be trusted with judicial authority.

The better hope is that someone in Georgia with the power to do so will do something about it.

H/T to the Atlanta Law Blog, for pointing out the radio episode.


  1. Calypso says:

    Thanks for shining the spotlight on this loony judge. Regarding your headline, let’s try to pick the fly out of this ointment, as it is still good medicine. This insect shouldn’t be allowed to discredit the treatment.

  2. John Konop says:

    A very good article all should read! We must start treating drugs problems as a health issue. Out dated logic used by judges like Williams has only made the problem worse. The only winners in the “War on Drugs” mentality are drug dealers, gangs, terrorist organizations and people who profit off the justice system with tax payers paying the bill.

  3. JasonW says:

    I’m from Camden County. Thats no secret. I also campaigned for Amanda Williams opponent who is a law professor at John Marshall in Atlanta. She is one of the most reversed Superior Court Judges’ in the State. There were numerous ethics violations against her regarding her previous race, and I think it’s fair to say that she is likely under investigation by the appropriate authorities. And yes, people are scared to death of her, she has the coast by the balls. She IS the most powerful person in Coastal Georgia, bar none. I still have family in Camden County and have lots and lots of connections there, and because I’m in the legal field, I have to be careful with what I say about her, so just take the article for the truth. Those of you that know me on here know that me not speaking out against someone is almost unheard of…but…in this case…

    • Calypso says:

      it’s fair to say that she is likely under investigation by the appropriate authorities.

      Any possibility of her getting a much-needed heave-ho?

        • Debra says:

          I’ve already contacted the Gov and St Attorney’s Office. I printed a copy of the American Life Episode Transcript and sent that along with my complaint form to JQC certified mail. Unless a large number of people really get involved nothing will be done.

      • Fear and Loathing in GC says:

        AW getting the heave-ho? You’re not familiar with politics in Glynn County are you?

    • rut roh says:

      Ethics complaints against her? Thanks to the always-looking-after-themselves legislature, the funding for any kind of ethical investigation against blatant violators of laws will take a very long time to come to its fruition.

  4. ashley says:

    I am from St. Simons and know Amanda. Jason W is correct about her. It is almost impossible to get any attorney to speak out against her because she is vindictive and will take it out on your clients in the future. She rules with an iron fist down there. I hope that Calypso is right and that someone has contacted the JQC and they are investigating. Only problem is that if no attorney is truthful with the JQC, nothing will be done.

  5. JasonW says:

    Ashley, I know that the JQC has been contacted. And there are a few attorney’s talking. They are obligated to investigate as they have some serious allegations unrelated to the drug court that they have to deal with. I don’t know the status or any other details, or at least that I’m willing to discuss in public. However, I think that any letter, particularly from locals and GA communities to the JQC will be helpful.

  6. saltycracker says:

    A modern day witch hunt. Drug courts are another way of not facing a health issue (see forfeiture thread).

    On Amanda – Combining criminal activity, bad check writing, with drug use, a health issue, in a drug court seems to lead to unintended consequences with rogue judges. Not many kids in the slammer for writing $100 in forged checks on Dad’s account. And no kid should be in jail for drug abuse.

    • n0n_s3quitur says:

      The net grows wider, yet.

      When will we learn that a “one size fits all” philosophy in our CJ system is achieving the opposite of what a “justice” system professes to implement.

  7. Baker says:

    The whole episode is really worth the listen (so are all the other This American Lifes, Sunday nights at 7:00 on WABE for those in metro Atl). I think on read this on CL’s comments, but you’ll notice it’s pretty hard to get info out of the folks down there. Only one attorney who ever appears before her talked to the radio guys and he did it only because he doesn’t live in the county and does more business elsewhere. Search for Judge Williams in the local newspapers down there and see what you get..not much.

  8. JasonW says:

    Also, it’s not JUST Glynn County. She runs the drug courts in Camden and Wayne counties as well.

  9. Debra says:

    The sheriff of Glynn County (Wayne Bennett) needs to be held accountable for the treatment of his detainees also. Several teenagers have died in his custody in that last 2-3 years. Glynn County is one of the most corrupt counties in Ga.

  10. Charlie says:

    Based on the number of direct messages I’m getting over this one, it look like there’s some real “there” there.

    Good work Mike.

  11. fearful says:

    I am not a great writer but here are some things that I have read or heard MANY TIMES in the last 6 days (some MUCH longer):
    “Judge Amanda Williams was found guilty of illegal arbitrary orders, negligence, false statements, and ethics violations, in 2010. She illegally took $60,000.00+ in filing fees from lawsuits filed in her court.”

    “Most reversed Judge in georgia”

    “Glynn drug court has ten times as many participants as Atlanta drug court does….how can that be?”

    “Judge Amanda Williams believes that since the drugs were on you, then you are an addict. Addicts lie, so therefore, you are an addict.”

    “Only 66.2 % of the vote is a very poor showing for a 20 year incumbent judge in GA. Just look at the average election results over time in GA. Most incumbent judges win with at least 80% of the vote and often more like 90%. This is why most judges never have opposition. Judge Williams’ opponent started her campaign only a few weeks before early voting began in Sept., was outspent 3 to 1, and for the most part only campaigned in 2-3 counties, but still mustered 33.8%. Oh and I might add, Williams strong armed all the lawyers in the circuit from her office in the courthouse. This is against election laws.”

    “Don’t say “shooters” or “she got to go” in the same e-mail as Amanda Williams, I said “get rid of her” in reference to , now we all will probably be arrested . This mess finally made the paper six days since the first broadcast, clever how they tried to discredit the movement by having her people send out bogus death threats.”

    “You know, Hitler and Mussolini probably had a few well-received public work projects too”

    “If the Drug Court utilized an unlicensed program then they: A) were condoning the operation of the illegal provision of treatment without licensure, or B) not fulfilling their own contract to provide treatment to the Defendant(s) in their Drug Court Program. Drug abuse treatment is a specialized industry that should be provided by competent and trained counselors, not glorified 12 Step sponsors acting as professionals, and certainly should be regulated under the State’s rules and regulations for the provision of such services. How could the Court justify sending their treatment participants to such programs?”

    This is just too much to ALL be wrong and ANY of it should be enough to get her out or at least start an investigation.

  12. Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

    The shame here is that it took Lindsey Dills in conjunction with this radio guy to draw attention to this. It is compelling that this drug court is larger than Fulton Counties. It is compelling that bonds were set at $15,000. And judge Williams lack of participation as well as the scardy cat lawyers did her case no good and predictably people and lawyers are lining up on the radio talk show locally to kiss her back side and cast fire and brimstone down on drug users……..but ladies and gentlemen, Lindsey Dills is no saint. She’s a walking roadside bomb that even damaged another judge in the story that actually went out of his way and tried to help her. Then she did exactly what he said not to do.

    • John Konop says:

      Ludwig Von Beachbum,

      The issue is she obviously had some mental illness issues in conjunction with here drug problems. The girl was on anti-depressants which needed approval of the judge while the girl was in jail. Also the judge new the girl has suicidal tendencies via her cutting issues before she was put in jail.

      Do you think any person should be a judge who would put a suicidal girl in isolation and made her go cold turkey on anti-depressants without the permission from a doctor? I am not sure why this is not criminal behavior let alone civil liabilities for the judge after the girl attempted suicide in jail.

      This goes way beyond wasting tax payers’ money and bad policy. This is a person with tremendous power obviously abusing it.

      Listen or read the transcript, if you do I am not sure how anyone would not be totally outraged after listening to this story.

      • Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

        I thought I made it plain that there was two tragedies here and Lindsey Dills is one. Now you went and did an in depth psychoanalysis of here mental state. I don’t prescribe to the train of thought that Lindsey is without blame or Amanda for that matter and I certainly am not going to re-enforce my position as you have on her mental state. That is what liberals do. I heard the audio twice and I think Lindsey suffers from what a lot of people do > They have a hard head and the only lessons they learn is after they made the same mistakes a dozen times which in the laboratory rat world would make them the dumb lab rat. She just isnt very smart just like a lot of people in jail .

        I am a lifelong resident of Glynn County. I probably could add a lot to this matter. What is going on in our court system is going on our school board, our county/ city commission and our state legislature and our federal government and that is..ding…. ding….. ding >>> corruption.

        • John Konop says:

          Ludwig Von Beachbum,

          This is not a liberal or conservative issue it is a health issue. I am not a licensed doctor nor are you and the judge. But a licensed doctor obviously but the girl on anti-depressants because she has depression issues. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand if a person is cutting themselves they have real issues.

          My only point is you; the judge and I are qualified to decide the proper treatment for her mental issues. And only a very irrational person would practice medicine by forcing her off her meds and putting her in isolation. For you not to see how this judge overstepped her boundaries is ridiculous and massively insensitive.

          When I read this story my heart went out to Lindsey and her family on many levels.

          • Doug Deal says:

            Since she interviened in Lindsey’s health care, I wonder if she could be charged with practicing medicine without a license? Or perhaps malpractice?

            Surely there is some state law to make it a felony to endanger a person’s life by restricting their access to medicine.

          • John Konop says:


            ….My only point is you; the judge and I are NOT qualified to decide the proper treatment for her mental issues……


            I agree this has to be against the law and if not it should be.

          • Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

            John, I am a harsh critic of the judge. My point is that Lindsey Dills doesn’t have clean hands in this matter. She had a long history or being a lug nut before her drug use created an (in this case) alleged mental issue. Don’t forget, this was radio. None of us is in a jury room looking at evidence or listening to that of doctors.

            • John Konop says:

              ….She had a long history or being a lug nut before her drug use created an (in this case) alleged mental issue…..

              The court system would not let her use anti-depressants in jail had she not had mental issues especially with a drug conviction. Also the only person who could give her a prescription is a doctor. Finally mental illness is an illness, would you call a person with broken arm a “lug nut” because they could not throw a football properly?

    • Dash Riptide says:

      There are kickass judges in this state who were born to judge. And we’re supposed to periodically trade down to opportunist hacks because Amanda Williams has escaped the intramanet microscope until now? I don’t think so.

      • Doug Deal says:

        No single person is indispensible to the government of this state, despite what their sycophants might believe. The risk of people amassing power is far greater of an evil than any good in keeping someone “born to judge”.

        Term limits guarantee turnover, which is a good thing in government.

  13. sstewart007 says:

    Please help us! We have been suffering since this woman took office in 1990! Now that her power-mad corruption has finally reached national attention we have a chance to finally get rid of her. Don’t believe there’s real corruption in Brunswick? Our local paper has still yet to print one word about this. Listen to the podcast. Google her name. This doesn’t even address her conduct in civil and criminal court! The story Our site. (UPDATE 3/31/11)Brunswick News finally printed something on this today,but as usual small town corruption had to put its spin on things. She received death threats, likely from her own camp to discredit those trying to oust her. The article comes out six days after the national radio broadcast, six days not a word, then this, corruption in Brunswick? You decide. The “news” article:

  14. Max Power says:

    41 comments and no one points out that this story came to light thanks to socialist National Public Radio?

  15. Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

    It would be a toss up to which tax payers supported entity in Glynn County is most corrupt. My nomination would be the county police department with their cover ups. Then there is that thing about shooting and killing un-armed people . We are a tourist destination so we gotta sweep a lot of this crap under the rug. You out of town folks have nothing to worry about. Law enforcement tends to just prey on us.

    Our police chief won’t put a car on the cocaine highway (I95) where the international drug cartel transport their goods to our nationals children. Mixing it up with them may mean they may shoot back. He’s busy looking for a hot microphone or a TV camera and making sure no one on the SSI causeway is un-comfy.

  16. Aiea says:

    I do not know anything about the laws or how they work. But may I ask why it is no one has thought to contat the ACLU on behalf of any of these people who’s lives are in the hands of this one-woman justice system?
    Although I can gratefully say I no longer live in the state of Georgia, I have relatives still mired in that state.

      • Aiea says:

        If you would like to wallow in religious intolerance, racial intolerance, an educational vacuum and shotguns/booze/revivals — head to Georgia. Been there, done that, now gone.

          • saltycracker says:

            Usually people move out of state for jobs, family, lifestyle change or to seek a redo on a messed up life……. In Florida I learned the folks moving in brought their heavy baggage with them – no escape but they found new folks to make miserable.

            I was intrigued, now I’m turned on as it appears you moved due to involvement in some sordid stuff – which one ?

            Again, where is this nirvana you found ?

            • Aiea says:

              Hi Salty,
              Aiea is a town in Hawaii. Why did I move? Cause I could. The nice thing about being 5,000 miles from the subject state is that limited baggage is allowed. Left it all at the Calif coast when I jumped in my kyak and started paddling!

              • saltycracker says:

                Aloha – Wow, talk about a beautiful state with issues !
                Home of Duane Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter)……..

        • Ludwig Von Beachbum says:

          You… Detroit native you. We’re jealous.

          ….Seriously..I gotta good laugh from the same garbage from someone that moved back to Detroit because their parents cut off their money.

  17. The Comma Guy says:

    Fulton County’s Drug Court has not been established as long as the one in Glynn County. Also, there may be some differences in who qualifies. Both of these reasons may explain the disparity in participant numbers.

  18. B Balz says:

    The Seed was hugely popular around the mid-70’s in West Coast Florida among Judges, Police, community leaders and many parents.. The program, by any measure, was draconian, unhealthy (from a psychological perspective) and was later discredited by virtually any reputable counseling organization. Yet, the community embraced it’s enviable ‘success’ record. Thus, I correlate a striking similarity to the Judge Williams discussion.

    The Seed was hugely effective (I mean it literally brutalized kids into good behavior) because there was virtually no recidivism among participants. Some 30+ years later: The Seed had been absorbed by Straight, Inc. and then morphed to present day, Partnership for a Drug Free America:

    I know of only one person in that area affected by Judge Williams court rulings. In that case, a good outcome is pending, based on the individual, continued family support, and the program. If that individual continues to make poor choices marked by bad outcomes, society will lose, as will the individual and her family.

    She appeared in Judge Williams court, again, after clinging to bad behavior (lying, cheating, doing prescription drugs while in rehab) She was sent here for ONE YEAR instead of hard time in jail:

    In GA we have all these places to send those whose drug use is effecting bad outcomes:

    The rehab bidniz is BIG BUSINESS and any rational economic person would argue: How does illegal drug use benefit society? JOBS! And one family scraping along to pay for the program to the tune of $750 per month.

    “Why drugs, why now?” is the real question. Does drug use signal that youth perceive societal hopelessness and drug use as an escape? Or, is it just ‘fun’ to get high and there is no deep, psychological agenda?

    We are in a Second Civil War in America and illegal drug use, with bad outcomes, is very much a part of the fusillade.

  19. Russflorida says:

    They really need to look at drug courts as a whole. The ones here in Florida are just as bad if not worse. I have worked in the court systems for 20 years and have never seen anything so unconstitutional as the drug courts suspended sentences and the continued incarceration the participants face. Lee county Florida is one of the worst for this and to top it off it has one of the worst jails in the country. The jail has even been featured on “countries worst jails”. Several examples include young 18 year old kids who got caught with a ounce of marijuana or a single pill in their pocket can get 2 year suspended prison sentences and MANY do. The expectations on these young adults is outrageous!! The judges and the prosecutors have way too much power and there are NO checks and balances….meaning, NOBODY is watching them to make sure the rights of the particpants are protected!!! Look, I undertand that we need to do something about the revolving door but these people still have rights…the right to be treated human…

    • Dash Riptide says:

      This isn’t complicated. Drug court is an adult version of juvenile court as it relates to delinquent children. It’s about rehabilitation, not punishment. If someone needs punishment for punishment’s sake, that should be handled by the superior court. Kick the person out of juvenile/drug court if they’re incorrigible, but don’t pervert the drug/juvenile court concept into something it was never meant to be.

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