CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - St. Lawrence County Judge Jerome Richards is retired after 15 years on the bench. He’s seen a lot, and tried to do a lot, to turn lives around.
He has a box of letters from defendants, many up on drug charges, who are making good choices.
“It’s more than just not doing drugs. You see people who have put in a year at drug treatment, obtaining a high school education, looking for jobs, staying out of trouble, doing volunteer work,” said Hon. Jerome Richards.
They did all that to avoid hard jail time in the judicial diversion program Richards oversaw. It often worked. As his fifteen years on the bench end, it’s a program he’s obviously proud of.
“Giving people the chance. Rather than just throwing away the key and saying ‘Okay, we’re going to put you in prison’,” said Richards.
He had a front-row seat to the opioid crisis. As a prosecutor, he had seen drugs, but nothing like the flood that hit St. Lawrence County in the last decade.
“As time has gone by, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine – you never saw methamphetamine in 1985, not that it wasn’t around --- but now, those three drugs, they’re rampant,” said Richards.
There are other challenges he faced in 15 years on the bench. One had to do with how different people read the law.
For instance, pistol permits.
Judge Richards has long put a restriction on most pistol permits. The gun is to be used for outdoor sports only. That rankles many gun enthusiasts. Not all county judges put that restriction on.
“Making the right decision is the hard thing. If you think you’re going to make everyone happy in this job – and you try – you won’t be doing a good job,”said Richards.
An election will be held in November for the judge’s seat vacated by Richards. In the meantime, a rotation of other judges will fill in.