"I'm probably the only district judge with this many tattoos"


The Houston Chronicle has an interesting profile of Kevin Fine, a criminal defense attorney and self-described former drug addict who was elected this month as a Texas district court judge. From the story:

The devil tattooed on Kevin Fine's upper arm holds a razor blade, a mirror and an eight ball symbolizing cocaine. His forearm sports a tattoo of Jesus holding up a man who has collapsed amid the waves of a massive storm.


The crumpled man in Jesus' arms is a metaphor for the way he later faced his own skeletons and weathered the problems of addiction, said Fine, a criminal defense lawyer who will take the bench in January.

Fine believes he is qualified to help those who truly want to battle their own demons and says he'll be able to spot the phonies.

As the story notes, Fine will be replacing incumbent Judge Devon Anderson, whose responsibilities currently include volunteering one day per week at Harris County's "drug court," where judges determine whether or not to mandate certain drug offenders into treatment facilities rather than locking them up behind bars. "Fine said he plans to volunteer for the drug court after a year of learning the ropes as a new judge," the Chronicle reports.

This certainly raises some interesting questions: Will having a self-described former addict who is able to spot the "phonies" be good news for Harris County's drug offenders? More importantly, are drug courts that deal out treatment rather than incarceration really mitigating the Drug War's negative impact? It's obviously hard to argue that getting sent to drug treatment is worse than going to jail or prison, but does that mean that this sort of mandatory treatment is something that Drug War opponents should support? Here's what Thomas Szasz had to say on the subject in an interview with Jacob Sullum in February 2000:

Reason: In the area of drug policy, you've criticized the idea of shifting from a criminal justice approach to a "medical" or "public health" model, which you say would only reinforce the therapeutic state. But if a drug offender who might otherwise go to jail can instead undergo "treatment"—which is now the case in Arizona, for example—isn't he better off, even if the treatment is bogus?

Szasz: He may be better off in the sense in which a Jew in 15th-century Spain may have been better off converting to Christianity than being tortured. But I reject the dilemma. One of these so-called treatment options may be less punitive for the subject. But the side effect is that it reinforces the legitimacy of this kind of medical autocracy.

Full Houston Chronicle story on Fine here. reason's interview with Szasz here.

(Chronicle story via How Appealing)

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  1. More importantly, are drug courts that deal out treatment rather than incarceration really mitigating the Drug War’s negative impact?

    Not if the “treatment” is voluntary like actual medical treatment. Ha !
    Since it isn’t really medical treatment but another form of judicial punishment I suppose the devil is in the details.If you serve less time and have a less negative “record” it is arguably better.If the outcome is equal it is arguably worse.

  2. I’ve long asserted that ex-smokers, married whores and catholic converts are the most sanctimonious people on earth. Ex dope addicts probably fits in there as well.

    That said, I’ve no idea if this guy will be a jerk or not. Does he expect the unlucky guy caught blowing a joint to be in need of anything from the justice system? I just googled drug treatment success rates and was presented with a wealth of essentially advertisements for rehab businesses which undoubtably support this facet of the War on Drugs Liberty. Does anybody have a link to a reputable study of court mandated drug treatment success rates? Many I’ve known who’ve entered treatment have not fared too well after leaving.

    Finally, it’s my goddam body and I’ll put what I goddam like into it, thank you very much for your concen, now go away and stop bothering me.

  3. Another needless Szasz reference.

    3rd in a week.

    These topics can be discussed without bringing him up.



    Try Google Scholar.
    This was the 5 minute search.
    Nothing too surprising, but the trend seems more positive than negative.

    Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment
    Volume 34, Issue 2, March 2008, Pages 242-248

    Drug court supervision beats out-patient treatment.

    Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment
    Volume 28, Issue 3, April 2005, Pages 213-223

    These findings appear to support the idea that judicial mandates can provide an opportunity for offenders with SUDs to access and benefit from needed treatment.

    Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 52, No. 4, 599-618 (2006)Effects of Motivation and Problem Severity on Court-Based Drug Treatment.

    Found motivation, acknowledgment of the problem, and previous jail time related to success in completing the program, which had an effect on recidivism.

    Child Maltreatment, Vol. 12, No. 2, 161-171 (2007)

    Dependency Drug Courts (DDCs) are a growing method of addressing the functional status and reunification success of families involved in child welfare and affected by substance use disorders. Despite widespread interest in DDCs, few evaluations have appeared in the literature to help inform the discussion about their effectiveness. This article provides a description of various types of DDCs and reports 24-month reunification rates from the Sacramento DDC. Results indicated that DDC participants had higher rates of treatment participation than did comparison participants. In addition, at 24 months, 42% of the DDC children had reunified versus 27.2% of the comparison children. There were no differences in treatment completion or child reunification rates by parent’s primary drug problem. Rates of recidivism were extremely low for both the DDC and comparison groups and did not differ significantly. The results of the present study are encouraging and suggest that rigorous, controlled studies are merited to further evaluate the effectiveness of DDCs.

    Child Maltreatment, Vol. 12, No. 1, 43-59 (2007)

    Family treatment drug courts (FTDCs) are a rapidly expanding program model designed to improve treatment and child welfare outcomes for families involved in child welfare who have substance abuse problems. The present study compares outcomes for 250 FTDC participants to those of similar parents who did not receive FTDC services in four sites. Results show that FTDC parents, compared to comparison parents, entered substance abuse treatment more quickly, stayed in treatment longer, and completed more treatment episodes. Furthermore, children of FTDC parents entered permanent placements more quickly and were more likely to be reunified with their parents, compared to children of non-FTDC participants. Finally, the FTDC program appears to have a “value added” in facilitating positive child welfare outcomes above and beyond the influence of positive treatment experiences.

    Mental Health Court Outcomes: A Comparison of Re-Arrest and Re-Arrest Severity Between Mental Health Court and Traditional Court Participants

    Volume 30, Number 6 / December, 2006
    Law and Human Behavior
    Abstract Mental health courts have been proliferating across the country since their establishment in the late 1990’s. Although numerous advocates have proclaimed their merit, only few empirical studies have evaluated their outcomes. This paper evaluates the effect of one mental health court on criminal justice outcomes by examining arrests and offense severity from one year before to one year after entry into the court, and by comparing mental health court participants to comparable traditional criminal court defendants on these measures. Multivariate models support the prediction that mental health courts reduce the number of new arrests and the severity of such re-arrests among mentally ill offenders. Similar analysis of mental health court completers and non-completers supports the prediction that a “full dose” of mental health treatment and court monitoring produce even fewer re-arrests.

  4. Studies show that persons respond to threats. What’s new?

  5. Another needless Szasz reference.

    There is no such thing. Dr. Szasz is entirely appropriate here as “drug treatment” in this case is criminal sanction masquerading as a therapeutic medical treatment.

    Apologists for the Therapeutic State Szasz-phobia is evidence of why he should be cited whenever relevant.

  6. I think that was an appropriate Szasz reference. Still, it’s painful to have the libertarian movement associated with him.

  7. This Szaz guy is a total tool. I bet if he were forced to undergo both “treatment” solutions he might not be so snarky about there being essentially no meaningful difference between the two. I bet that having to endure the medical autocracy that so offends his delicate sensibility would look good in comparison after he’s been made someone’s bitch in the bighouse.

  8. It’s a common belief in the criminal justice systemt hat former defense attorneys who become judges are tougher on defendants than former proseuctors who become judges. The supposed reason for this is that the former public defenders are reminded that most of their old clients were douchebags who treated them like shit.

  9. L.d.:


    funi – not funni.

  10. Sounds like this judge replaced his cocaine addiction with a Jesus addiction, making him healthier but much more annoying.

  11. libertarian democrat | November 17, 2008, 9:46pm | #
    I think that was an appropriate Szasz reference. Still, it’s painful to have the libertarian movement associated with him.

    Inappropriate in this sense.
    Citation of Szasz is an appeal to authority.
    As an authority, Szasz is not broadly respected.
    Appeals to authority are a weak argument in the first place.
    Appeals to authority figures who are not respected have a negative impact on your argument.

    Tom Cruise has also made statements on this issue, why not cite him?

    As I have said previously, the issue of coercion in regards to mental health are important and Szasz has been consistent in making his point that involuntary treatment is a form of coercion. However, he consistently makes inapt comparisons when discussing the issue. Funi above gets it right. No matter how hard, or for how long Szasz hammers away at his false equivalencies, they don’t ring true and appeals to his authority on the topic sideline the discussion.

  12. While reducing the numbers of people incarcerated is extraordinarily important, mandated drug treatment has many problems. Offenders often spend far, far more time under state supervision once they enter the therapeutic penal system than they would if they had just taken the jail time. These mandated programs typically run for about 1 year or more. This can amount to longer times under state control than many would face if they had gone to trial or plead guilty in regular criminal court. In fact, if you violate the mandates of the treatment program you can be sent to jail, often for longer than the original sentence. In addition, therapeutic punishments ultimately open up the offender’s psyche and emotions to penal intervention, which is more invasive and total (if less punitive) than a typical stay in jail. Finally alternative punishments often have a “net-widening” effect, meaning people who would be let off with non-carceral or other lesser sentences (perhaps not even arrested) get swept into these treatment courts and end up with far more involvement in the criminal justice system than would have happened if when the only option was a traditional criminal court or carceral sentence.

    On the other hand, getting mandated to treatment via the criminal justice system is often the only way for the very poor and homeless to get addiction treatment and other services. They buy these services at the cost of a lot of liberty.

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