A special Spokane County court is looking for other ways to help people with behavioral problems without locking them up.
Judge Debra Hayes spent years in law school but lately has become an expert in psychology. Haynes presides over Spokane's Mental Health Court, where defendants have traded in their handcuffs for a little compassion.
"These are people who have an illness and when they receive the proper medication, they thrive," said Hayes.
The judge said most of their defendants are accused of theft or domestic violence. One of the court's graduates had a fourth-degree assault charge that she said put her in contact with the right combination of resources.
"You get stable living and counseling and a plethora of (other) things. They'll even help you with a bus pass, if you need to get to court on time, because they want to make sure you are here," said Potter.
All court participants have to stay on their medications, attend all of their counseling sessions and are subject to drug testing. Court graduate Brian Johnson said it would have been easier to go to jail, but the court's accountability program forced him to deal with the root of his problems. Johnson said once he finished the program, his mother was no longer worried about him.
"We had no idea this was an option and when we discovered it, it was amazing and I really think it saved Brian's life," said Johnson's mother Marty Johnson.
The program is also saving the taxpayers money, by helping defendants stay out of jail, which in turn means the county can buy less beds and medication for their inmates. The court said the program has saved at least $3 million in jail spending.
However, the days may be numbered for this program. The court said it may be on the chopping block soon due to budget cuts. Employees of the court said they hope it won't get cut because it will force people who could use their help to deal with their illness alone.