(CBS) – If they go to jail, it’s a burden on the taxpayers. Some probation violators are sent to Judge Jackie Portman, and 85 percent will make it out without getting in trouble again.
CBS 2’s Mai Martinez looks at how the judge does it.
“I’m not your typical judge,” Portman tells people in her courtroom. “I know what you’ve done. I’m like Santa. I’ve got a list. I check it twice. I know who’s naughty. I know who’s nice.”
Portman makes it clear that when it comes to the law, she doesn’t mess around:
“If you remain in violation of your probation from this day forward I will lock you up. I will lock you up!”
Four years ago, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans picked Portman to head the “Adult Redeploy Illinois” probation program.
“She is talented, capable and compassionate,” he says.
The program provides defendants with social services. including drug treatment, if needed.
“These are individuals who, but for the program, might be headed back downstate to be incarcerated again,” Evans says.
Most of the defendants do so well, they’re released months ahead of schedule.
Portman says she uses “tough love” because she knows what they’re up against.
“I went through the same things. I grew up right in the heart of Englewood – you know, shots being fired all around me, drive-bys, everything you can name, and guess what? I became a judge,” she says.
She always wanted to be that. Her defendants say she chose the right calling.
“She’s pretty fair. She’s pretty stern and she’s pretty strict and she gives you what you need,” Robert Pearce Jr. says.
Judge Evans is extremely proud of the program’s success, but because of the state’s budget impasse, it hasn’t received state funding for about a year.
Cook County has been footing the bill and will do so through November. After that, the program’s fate could be uncertain.