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Judge says "building blocks" of character essential to crime free lifestyle

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Ellis County Press

'Remember: It´s better to build boys than to mend men.'

-- Horace Heidt, band leader and radio personality, circa 1950.

WAXAHACHIE -- Each month, dozens of cases involving young people come before Ellis County Judge Bob Carroll, who has primary jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes, such as drug offenses and theft.

'When they´re in court,' Judge Carroll said, 'I often ask myself: ‘What went wrong? Why did they walk down the pathway of crime?'

'I believe the character of an individual is put together with different building blocks, and the list is not a short one,' he said. 'As I observe each young accused offender, I try to assess what building blocks may be missing from their life experience.

'Were they taught morals, values, or accountability? Did they lack direction or discipline? Were they counseled and encouraged? With enough well-placed building blocks, the structure is strong. But remove enough key blocks, and that structure collapses.'

Apparently, many courts today are involved in more than sentencing the offender or setting the amount of a fine. Young accused people may find a trip to Judge Carroll´s court an opportunity to get their lives straight. In fact, on occasion Carroll may actually mandate some positive changes into their lives.

'For certain types of crime, I often set requirements as conditions of release,' Judge Carroll said. 'Many people need someone in their lives to make them do what is best for themselves. In some cases, a firm approach may prove an act of kindness in the long run.

'For example, I might see a 21-year-old girl charged with driving while intoxicated. Let's say she has never finished high school and isn´t working. I might order her to complete her general education degree and immediately obtain full-time employment, in addition to any punishment or sentence assessed.

'She can either comply or go to jail,' he said. 'I realize this may be too little too late; however, it´s a start toward rebuilding a very valuable life.'

Judge Carroll often assigns an offender with a specific need to an organized program. For example, some might benefit from assistance with substance abuse.

Others might participate in the Victim Impact Program, co-sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the Ellis County Court at Law. Here victims injured or otherwise effected by drunk drivers face the offenders to demonstrate or otherwise relate destruction brought into their lives.

'In nearly every case,' Judge Carroll said in summation, 'the life of each young offender would be better if someone had earlier instilled the necessary building blocks into his or her character.'

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