Organization: Judicial Branch of Puerto Rico --NOMINEE'S ACHIEVEMENTS--
Length of service to the Drug Court field: 10 years For what achievements are the nominee best known?
The achievements and merits accomplished by Judge Berrios have been remarkably surprising and extraordinary in the successful completion of the goals pursued by the Drug Court Program in Ponce, Puerto Rico with the participants, the treatment, the particular needs of these and other aspects of their life that positively impact on their rehabilitation and transformation. The role of Judge Berríos in the process is not merely one of passing judgment, but rather an active role that assists in the progress and healing of each participants in the Drug Court Program, based on respect and trust granted to them in order to reverse and change their life course, making them feel assisted with justice and dignity.
Judge Berrios is a role model of authority and interaction in accordance with the mission of the Drug Court Program which has effectively tempered and impacted the entire operation of her courtroom under a model that integrates and provides not only the legal criminal aspect, but also the sensibility, follow-up and treatment measures imposed on participants who appear before her. She has transformed the figure of the typical Judge imparting justice and the non-traditional approach of the Drug Court to establish strategies that denote empathy and communication that transmit confidence in the participants, and lets them know that the Judicial System is interested in their welfare and development. Thus, ties and links are strengthened leading towards change and positive changes on participant attitudes, values and behavior modification.
Describe in what ways his/her contributions have been of greatest value for the Drug Court movement: Judge Berríos represents a genuine vanguardist in the evolution of the Drug Court Program, whose firm intention has confirmed her commitment and sensibility to the understanding of the treatment process of recovery from drug addiction. She has also embraced her task as a facilitator to actively intervene in solving the issues of the judicial system and everyday problems that truncate the progress in the treatment of program participants.
The process of implementing specific objectives and targets for the effective implementation of the Drug Court Program that Judge Berrios imparts in her courtroom have been dynamic and have served as a liaison and guidance to present and transmit the novel purpose in the application of justice to the newly appointed judges and officials who begin to work in the Ponce Judicial Region to which she is assigned, and to many other Regions around the island.
This has led them to understand how the Drug Court program understands the nature of a drug user and how the Program works with a humanized therapeutic justice approach in order to obtain the ultimate goal of our program, that is the rehabilitation of our participants and their reintegration to the community .
Judge Berrios is recognized as the leading example in the Drug Court field in the Puerto Rico. Due to the fact that the Drug Court operates in a non-traditional manner, Judge Berrios has ensured that the staff assigned to work as part of her team and the other program components that respond to other agencies engage in teamwork, by promoting the best practices and strengthening the quality of the processes in the Drug Court courtroom. To Judge Berrios, each component of the DC model in her courtroom plays an essential role as an agent of positive change, ensuring the attention of the particular needs of all Drug Court participants. Therefore, as the leader of the Program, she is demanding. Her approach focuses on optimizing and consolidating the quality of the social and treatment services offered by her courtroom in accordance with the philosophy of the program, strengthening commitment, and the graduation of more participants in the Program. Her effort has paid off, the Ponce Judicial Region is the Region with the highest amount of active participants islandwide.
To encourage and reaffirm the commitment to the integration of society with elements in the field of education and to promote educational and social opportunities, each academic semester Judge Berríos, receives in her courtroom a law student whom she instructs on the processes conducted in the drug court and inspires he or she as a therapeutic, non adversarial, legal model. This contributes to the training of future lawyers whom she converts into friends of this special Program and educates students into understanding that drug abuse is a actual chronic disease.
Judge Berríos promotes in her courtroom that all components get involved in achieving a common goal, the recovery of each participant while upholding the legally protected interest of our community.
Describe the national or global impact of these achievements:
By her own initiative, Judge Berríos has been a speaker in seven NADCP´s Annual Conferences, being the first person to offer a session in Spanish, thus inspiring the organization´s Spanish track, which is now a full grown educational track for the benefit of all the Spanish speaking members. This initiative has opened the door for other Latin American countries to join the organization, expanding the program and services to other jurisdictions and countries.
The accomplishments of Judge Berríos, extend to all areas of her work, so that the knowledge, experience and discretion related to the rehabilitation of our Drug Court participants have made employees, prosecutors and lawyers who have any relatives (sons, nephews, spouses) with substance abuse problems, feel confident in resorting to her guidance in search of and obtaining the services that are dedicated to attending this delicate matter, even if they do not have a case before the Court. She also guides her fellow judges in situations and cases dealing with the use and abuse of controlled substances.
Although her courtroom is primarily responsible for cases under the Controlled Substances Act that qualify for the Drug Court Program, in response to international studies that have shown a strong correlation between the effects of consuming controlled substances and domestic violence, Judge Berrios, has promoted that her courtroom serves as a groundbreaking island-wide project that receives cases under the domestic Violence Act where there have substance abuse problems have been identified. In order to increase the level of participation and effectiveness of the Drug Court Program in Ponce, the Regional Administrative Order No. 2012-03 was issued.
Under such Order and covered by the Operational Guidelines of the DC Program, a sixth part of all new criminal cases, in which charges are pressed alleging violation of certain articles of the Prevention and Intervention in Domestic Violence Law, are being assigned to Judge Berrios´ courtroom in Ponce. With this new project, the services that the program provides, will be extended to other sectors of the population with addiction problems.
Her interest and determination in showing the academic community the concept and impact of the Drug Court Program in the lives of so many people suffering from this disease have made her a pioneer in PR, as she is responsible for the institution in the Law School curriculum of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico the course: "Principles Under the Therapeutic Jurisprudence". She has been offering this seminar since 2010 with great enthusiasm after business hours.
Judge Berrios also teaches other courses at that same institution, such as:
Trial Court, Criminal Procedure, Special Penal Laws, through which she has developed programs and other training activities implemented to achieve a holistic approach, comprising the dogmatic, regulatory, practical and ethical aspects, illustrated with a critical analysis of the case law and legislation.
She has also led and contributed to the strengthening of the Judicial Branch by participating as speaker and a mentor at the Judicial Academy and the Programa de Formación Inicial de la Judicatura. She provides training workshops to all judges who enter the Judicial Branch and provides guidance on the management of the Drug Court to each new appointee.
In addition she represents the Judicial Branch throughout the island by participating in forums and events as a speaker in government agencies and
non- govermental organization´s educational activities. Among them she has offered lectures focusing on Drug Court (August 2010) in activities promoted by the Caribbean Basin and Addiction Technology Center, Universidad Central del Caribe held in leading hotels of the island as part of a project conducted by this institution called “Educando a la Familia en la Recuperación de la Solución a las Drogas” to strengthen and train other professionals, and establish reciprocal relationships of cooperation and exchange with other law schools, peer institutions, universities and other entities engaged in the research, teaching, and providing assistance and legal services.
As part of the 2007-2011 Strategic Plan, called “Obra de Justicia de la Administración de los Tribunales”, Judge Berrios, has contributed her ideas and proposals in the field of computer science, specifically in our Management Information System- SUMAC (Sistema Unificado para el Manejo y Administración de Casos) to integrate the Drug Court program and allow for quick and effective resolution of these cases and effective data recollection. She has also coordinated with the Directorate of Judicial Programs in the OCA activities and projects designed to provide awareness of the benefits of the Drug Court Program to the lawyers and the general community in Ponce and other regions.
She represents all 11 Drug Court judges in the Drug Court Interagency Committee, whose meetings she timely attends and shares her ideas, which are usually taken into account given her expertise and have helped regulate the public policy that has been established for the Program operations in Puerto Rico.
Her efforts to ensure that cases are working with speed, efficiency and objectivity has helped to achieve the goal of the participant’s rehabilitation in the Drug Court Program as it enables them to abide to the treatment. Judge Berrios’s continuous monitoring and the quality of the time spent with her Drug Court participants is exceptional. Without a doubt her actions certainly produce a tangible recovery in the physical and emotional health as well as an improvement in the quality of life of the participants.
Judge Berrios acknowledges the collaboration that different therapeutic communities and self-help groups provide in achieving assertive solutions to monitor the processes of overcoming struggles that the participants face.
For this reason and in order to encourage community and family participation the Drug Court Program, she collaborates with two of the strongest rehabilitation programs on the island including HOGARES CREA, Inc. and the Centers Sor Isolina Ferré. The empathy that Judge Berrios has established through the Drug Court Program, have encouraged her to join prevention campaigns and crusades organized by these entities that also provide guidance in public schools and communities about the problem of addiction and the process of rehabilitation through the Drug Court program.
Her vision of the service, the value she gives to her role as a judge in the therapeutic process and the challenges she faces with the Drug Court Program, distinguish her for being a professional with great initiative with special sensibility, holder of the gift of compassion, courageous in the exercise of her ministry and ability to always be available to help and support those who are struggling to get out of the drug abuse disease.
As part of the development of the interagency collaboration between the Drug Courts Program, public agencies and community-based organizations, Judge Berrios, has organized a series of events and projects designed to help motivate participants to move towards a future of social reintegration and in return, broaden the perspectives of the Drug Court program. This helps generate local support and enhance program effectiveness.
The contribution of Judge Berrios in the Drug Court Program has transcended her courtroom and she has been invited by many agencies and organizations to offer lectures and conferences for the benefit of students in public and private schools. Among these, Proyecto Plataforma Verde del Departamento de Recursos Naturales – which aims to improve the negative impact generated by the environment. She has organized activities that integrate program participants in reforestation and beach cleaning, carrying a message about how we are all responsible for improving the environment in which we live.
In addition she has served as a speaker in community and educactional events organized by the Judicial Branch as was the Courts Expo 2011, an event held at the Plaza del Caribe Mall in Ponce, where hundreds of citizens attended.
Present evidence that these achievements have/had (or will have) enduring
value: The activities listed below are some of the measures affirming Judge Berrios´ achievements toward the rehabilitation and transformation of lives in the Drug Court Program, where she is attentive in working with participants´self-esteem and identifying their talents. Through these measures the community and families are aware of the importance of their support for the participants to achieve educational, vocational and treatment goals supervised by the Court.
A. Activity of the first exhibition of artworks entitled “Color y Formas de
la Perseverancia” held in the lobby of the Judicial Center of Ponce. This activity gave the community a sample of artistic talent with some participants and what they can achieve through the recovery process. This exhibition was also enjoyed by a delegation of judges from Mexico, visiting the Judicial Region.
B. Activity on “Semana de la Mujer” held in the lobby of the Ponce
Judicial Center, attended by judges of the Judicial Region and the general public. This activity focused on recognizing the achievements obtained by females participating of the Drug Court Program.
C. “Cruzada Fe y Esperanza” nationwide activities organized by Hogares
CREA of Puerto Rico.
D. The Tiring Walk “Rehabilitation Celebration”, sponsored by the
Department of Health component (ASSMCA).
E. Activity in Recognition of Program participants in the arts and sports
activities held each year. For these activities, prominent sport figures are approached in order to have their presence and thus serving as rolemodels and inspiration for participants in the process of rehabilitation.
F. Actividad Mes de la Recuperación. Mobilized participants of the Drug
Court Program to a guided tour in the Art Museum of Ponce to promote interest in the arts as options that the participants have to overcome obstacles in life.
G. Activity of the Turkey Race identified under the motto: “Doy la Milla
Extra con Drug Court” where participants of the drug court program, Judge Berríos, personnel and interagency components of the Drug Court program participated. The objective of the activity was to make the participants of the Drug Court program aware that it is essential to have goals and to work to reach them in order to have success in life.
Judicial Region of Ponce, which hosted the Sofball tournament. This event was attended by all ten DC Programs in PR.
I. Activity "Recojido de Café" This activity promotes the value of work, the
reward of sacrifice and the benefit of the agricultural product. (coffee
J. Activity "Parrandón a la Población de la Tercera Edad." This activity
takes place annually around Christmas time. Judge Berríos brings together the components of the five agencies and the Judicial Branch and the participants in order to offer a delightful afetrnoon with Christmas music and songs to a nursing home or geriatric center of the Municipality of Ponce.
The objective of this activity is promoting the value of cultural traditions and customs that also makes everyone understand how useful it can be to provide joy to others.
K. Performing arts musical “La Obra de mis Sueños” starring the Drug
Court Program participants. Judge Berríos inspired a secretary who is part of her team to write the script and produce a musical in which participants carry a message that emphasizes the value held by each human being as individuals. With the support of Judge Berríos, the secretary won, among more than 5,000 employees the first prize in the Public Service Excellence Award offered by the Judicial Branch. The Secretary also received an honorable mention in the Manuel A. Pérez Public Service Excellence competition, the whole Government equivalent. The musical presentations provided opportunities for the community to know the program through its own participants. In addition these activities made the participants feel proud of themselves and also offered joy and hope to families who came to watch.
This activity was first presented atthe 15 year celebration of the Drug Court Program in PR with all 10 Regions present.
All activities promoted by Judge Berrios, project in such an iconic way that they embody the vision and mission of collaborative justice prevailing in her courtroom which encourages the participants to gain a sense of self control to confront their own issues as well as give them the tools to modify their behavior, improve self-esteem and self-confidence to take responsibility ontheir actions. With these initiatives and projects, Judge Berrios has tried to position the participants in a successful path and guarantee them decent treatment, which means a cultural advance in our country to provide justice and services for others.
These activities are intended to contribute and help participants to identify specific goals and build their “own virtues and strengths " and encourage them to use these skills positively in a collaborative effort to solve their problems.
Judge Berrios has organized these activities to promote self-efficiency and motivation of participants helping them to define their goals and understand how to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way to achieve their goals.
These activities have been awarded, recognized, and praised by the judiciary and the public in general, including important figures in our country, amongst them the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, Honorable Federico Hernández Denton.
As a way of spreading the word out to the community with the scope and possibilities of the Drug Court Program and the possibility of implementing innovative communication schemes in addiction prevention, Judge Berrios has endeavored in assuring that the media portrays all Drug Court Program activities. To fulfill this purpose, she invites the local press to these activities in order to let people know about the good things that are being done in our court system and in the government. Hence there have been subsequent invitations to participate in programs through WPAB radio and Univision. This endeavor contributes to her mission in the ministry that she has chosen. With her participation she has also contributed to improving the public's perception of the judicial system.
Judge Berrios is clear about the role of a judge in our society. In her courtroom she follows the Drug Court model philosophy, integrating the ten key components in all her procedures and making sure the team follows them as well. The success of her courtroom resides in a team that works together to help an individual get the services needed to deter the return of the individual to court with further offenses. Judge Berrios´ goal of making the services of the Drug Court Program within the reach of every person in need has been met, and therefore we nominate her for this prestigious award.