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‘It’s saving lives everywhere.’ Treatment services building dedicated to Drug Court founder John Girardeau
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A crowd gathers Thursday, April 21, 2022, at the Judicial Accountability Services building for a dedication naming the building The Judge John E. Girardeau Building for the retired judge responsible for the creation of Drug Court. - photo by Scott Rogers

Sarah Petrocy entered Judge John Girardeau’s court “beat down” and “broken.”

Now 11 years clean, Petrocy got a chance to thank the judge as he was honored for his work in creating the county’s Drug Court program.

“It’s like that little raindrop that falls into the water, and it’s that ripple effect,” Petrocy said. “It’s saving lives everywhere, not just here in our area. And it’s all because of him.”

Petrocy hugged Girardeau Thursday, April 21, outside of the Judicial Accountability Services building that now bears his name.

Drug Court is an accountability court program that works to provide rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment instead of incarceration for offenders.

Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin said it was Girardeau’s “empathy and concern for all people” that helped lead to the Drug Court’s formation in the early 2000s.

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Retired Judge John Girardeau meets with friends Thursday, April 21, 2022, at the Judicial Accountability Services building following a dedication naming the building The John E. Girardeau Building who is responsible for the creation of Drug Court. - photo by Scott Rogers

“Now 20 years later, it seems woven into the very fabric of our court system — all of the accountability courts — and rightly so,” Gosselin said.

Any new idea, Gosselin said, comes with controversy. The judge said there were hours of meetings with prosecutors, law enforcement and commissioners.

But it took the judge’s drive, his determination, his “uniquely persuasive personality and voice to accomplish what all of us now know to be a much more humane, efficient and successful way to sentence defendants with serious substance abuse problems,” Gosselin said.

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A crowd gathers Thursday, April 21, 2022, at the Judicial Accountability Services building for a dedication naming the building The Judge John E. Girardeau Building for the retired judge responsible for the creation of Drug Court. - photo by Scott Rogers


“I think it’s important that while we hold criminals accountable, there are some people that we need to try to help in such a way that they’re not criminals anymore,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

The building currently holds Treatment Services, which oversees the accountability court programs, and Pretrial Services, who are responsible for monitoring people out on bond.

“He saw the need for a different type of response for folks coming through the criminal justice system whose main issue is addiction and substance use issues,” said Treatment Services Director Jessi Emmett. “He saw a way to potentially break that cycle and help folks rebuild their lives.”

Emmett said there are currently 450 participants across Hall and Dawson counties in the accountability court programs, which now include DUI Court, Family Treatment Court and others.

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2009 Drug Court graduate Sarah Petrocy hugs John Girardeau Thursday, April 21, 2022, at the Judicial Accountability Services building during a dedication naming the building The Judge John E. Girardeau Building for the retired judge responsible for the creation of Drug Court. - photo by Scott Rogers