A Visit to the Atlantic Judicial Circuit (Darien, GA); A Conversation with Judge Bolin

by Michelle Barclay

Michelle Barclay (MB): This morning starting at 7:30a I observed your Stop the Cycle Program which has a lot of participants.  Why did this program get started?

Judge C. Jean BolinJudge Bolin:  My 7-8 years as juvenile judge heightened my awareness to the needs of young adults and families in crisis. I saw many of the juveniles grow up and become adult offenders.  Common denominators were: 1- uneducated; 2-unemployed; 3-unaddressed mental/emotional issues and substance abuse; 4-lack of structure in everyday lives; 5-unaccountability for behaviors; and 6-repeating same patterns of behavior.  Further, by processing this population through the legal system, their problems were increasing exponentially.

MB: How did the program get started?  

Judge Bolin: As a State Court Judge I began to look at ways to approach the underlying needs.  Without the authority of the court, people were not going to change their habits.  They needed strong motivation. I talked to people in various programs who set specific goals for its participants, but I quickly realized I couldn’t just order the offenders to participate and expect overall positive change. To be successful, I had to create a program that addresses an individual’s needs based on the six most common deficiencies listed above.  I had to give them a reason for each person to buy into their plan for change. Thus Stop the Cycle began to evolve. 

MB: Have you thought about applying to the Council of Accountability Court Judges to create a drug court or a mental health court? 

Judge Bolin: Of course, I have thought about the accountability court structure!  Our court, though high volume (mostly due to I-95 and our geographic location along the coast) is situated in a low population county. I am considered part-time. All of the people that assist me are volunteers.  I lack the time, expertise and resources to apply, qualify, and implement an officially recognized accountability court.  

MB: What has been your greatest victory from the program?  

Judge Bolin: Sometimes it works!  We see people every month that have acquired steady employment, reinstated their drivers’ license, actively participate in ongoing rehabilitation, perform weekly community service, AND have not been charged with new misdemeanor offenses.  The Stop the Cycle program has taught participants to be accountable, responsible and contributing citizens.  

MB: Any mistakes made?  Or regrets? 

Judge Bolin: Lots of mistakes.  Not everyone is STC material.  I can’t make them do what they refuse to participate in.  I can’t fix everyone.  I have fewer regrets.  All my growing up years, my mother hammered into my consciousness and that of my siblings, “idle minds are the devil’s workshop”.  I wish I had grasped onto that concept much earlier.  

MB: What is your plan for sustainability?  

Judge Bolin: I am driven to be present every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. to check in, chat, encourage, coax and sometimes to fuss...whatever it takes to keep the individuals “inspired”.  There are four other volunteers who are equally committed.  Additionally, success is dependent on all of the agencies and organizations like Gateway Behavioral Health Services, Mcintosh County Adult Literacy Program, AA, private therapists, DDS, the courts, Darien Public works, McIntosh County Animal Shelter, McIntosh County Landfill, Ida Hilton Public Library, and others maintaining their roles in our community.  Stop the Cycle has become a small but essential part of our county’s thought process.  It is recognized by our Sheriff Steve Jessup and Chief of Police Donny Howard, by the Solicitor General Richard Braun, and local attorneys as an option for offenders in lieu of jail time, fines or harsher sentences.  

MB: Tell me a little bit about your path to becoming a lawyer, then a judge?     

 

Judge Bolin and her husband Butch

Judge Bolin: I graduated from Shorter College (University) in 1977 with a B.A. in communications. Almost twenty years later I entered law school and graduated with a J. D. in the inaugural class of Florida Coastal  School of Law in 1999. Becoming a lawyer was a lifelong dream come true.  I was born to be an advocate and I’m kinda bossy! After practicing in a  general practice for five years I was appointed juvenile court judge for Mcintosh and Bryan counties. I continued as juvenile judge and was appointed to the McIntosh  County State Court in November 2012, by Governor Nathan Deal. In 2014, I was elected to the position and ran unopposed in 2018. I resigned from Juvenile Court in March 2014.   My husband of 40 years, Hammond (Butch) Bolin is a R.N. at the Southeast Georgia Health Systems, Brunswick Campus. Though we are not parents, we are known as “aunt” and  “uncle” to about 35 biological and adopted nieces and nephews and we are much loved by our two dogs, Buck and Sadie.

Judge Bolin's paintings

 Buck and Sadie

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