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Paul M. Herbert

2015 Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards

Paul M. Herbert | Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services
Franklin County Municipal Court
Columbus, Ohio

Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Paul M. Herbert has been working to change the way society looks at women charged with prostitution. For him, prostitution isn’t the oldest profession; it’s the oldest form of oppression. 

Judge Herbert’s nontraditional approach began after a revelation in 2008, when he was presiding over an arraignment court. After researching the criminology of prostitution, he discovered that nearly 90 percent of prostituted women were sexually abused. It became evident to Judge Herbert that prostitution is not a victimless crime and that traditional enforcement would not succeed with this population. 

In 2009, Judge Herbert started Changing Actions to Change Habits (CATCH) Court to expand the reach of victim rights and services. The 2-year specialty court includes residential detox programs and intensive therapy. Participants are recognized as victims of human trafficking and receive help related to diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, and other mental illnesses. 

CATCH Court also connects women to a safe environment, healthcare, and resources for job training. Participants meet weekly and attend weekly court hearings. They live drug-free, alcohol-free, and crime-free lives. Through CATCH Court, they no longer feel alone, they are heard and respected, and their lives are being renewed and changed. 

Program participants are making the Dean’s list at the local community college, gaining child custody rights, earning their driver’s license, and keeping stable employment. Graduates of the program are given a clean slate. Upon graduation their convictions are dismissed and sealed. 

During CATCH Court’s first year, Franklin County’s spending on incarcerating program participants plummeted from $205,030 to $18,720, another benefit to the program. CATCH Court has undoubtedly impacted central Ohio and others are taking note. The specialty court is being replicated in Dayton, Cleveland, and Cincinnati, Ohio and may serve as a national model for combating human trafficking. 

Judge Herbert knew something had to change in his courtroom when he couldn’t distinguish the faces of defendants from the faces of victims. He changed his own attitude, and in turn, has changed professional perceptions and most importantly transformed lives.