WORLD

Night Court

A ‘cop in a black dress’ metes out novel justice

CHRIS WOOD April 5 1993
WORLD

Night Court

A ‘cop in a black dress’ metes out novel justice

CHRIS WOOD April 5 1993

Night Court

WORLD

A ‘cop in a black dress’ metes out novel justice

CHRIS WOOD

The chatter filling the pine-panelled second-floor courtroom in Miami’s Gerstein Justice Building died down as a slender woman in a black silk suit entered and stood quietly by the door. With the looks and poise of the international model that she once was, she seemed strikingly out of place amid the drug addicts occupying the half-dozen rows of public seating. But the contrast was misleading. Spotting the woman standing at the rear of his court last week, Judge Stanley Goldstein recalled how she had looked when she had first appeared before him. Her mother, he told the captive audience, had found her in the family’s bathroom “trying to pull worms from her face.” Now, 3V2 years later, the scars from that cocaine-induced incident are still visible on the woman’s sculpted cheeks. But, goaded by Goldstein, she has kicked her drug habit and is now poised to open a fashion boutique in tony Pompano, Fla. “Any one of you can do the same thing,” Goldstein told the 30 or so defendants awaiting their fate. “If you can beat cocaine, you can do anything.”

It is the message that addicts hear constantly from the florid, 63-year-old jurist who describes himself as “a cop in a black dress.” Since 1989, the former Miami police officer has presided over a trend-setting experiment in diverting addicts arrested for theft or small-scale drug sales from becoming more deeply enmeshed in the criminal justice system. Those who qualify are given an offer that most find difficult to refuse: in return for waiving their right to a speedy trial, they enter a year-long treatment program that boasts a stunning 60-per-cent recovery rate. Those who fail may face the charges against them in regular court. “You give me one year,” Goldstein tells them. “I’ll drive you crazy for that one year. And I’ll give you 40 good years after that. One for 40. That’s better than the lotto.”

Goldstein’s earthy directness reinforces the program’s emphasis on individual responsibility. Pressing home his message of personal resolve as the way to freedom from cocaine slavery, Goldstein offers himself as an example. “I was a nasty cop,” he recalled in his court last week. “How did I become a social worker? I changed.” With remarkable effectiveness, Goldstein is proving that even his deeply addicted listeners can do the same.

CHRIS WOOD in Miami