Judge Stokes Needs Volunteers

Business, Churches and Former Prostitutes Wanted!

by Teresa Rabne

The glimmer in her eye and lift in her voice reveal her love for being a public servant. Judge Angela Stokes of the Cleveland Municipal Court is a dedicated Christian involved in social issues.

The daughter of Congressman Louis Stokes, and the niece of former Cleveland mayor and US ambassador Carl Stokes, Judge Stokes was raised in a Christian home. In 1988, when she was working in Ohio’s attorney general’s office, she made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Since that time, she has hungered to know more about the Lord and the Bible. Currently she is pursuing a degree from Hosanna Bible Training Center in Macedonia, Ohio.

Judge Stokes draws strength from her faith as she presides over cases involving various misdemeanors—from traffic violations to mistreatment of animals to loitering for prostitution. Due to better community policing, the volume of cases is rising. The long days and grim cases do not discourage her. She said, "I have a lot of hope and a lot of faith. I pray a lot for…the court…for the right thing to do, for wisdom and guidance." Her compassion for offenders’ predicaments has become an effective tool. On one hand, she protects the public and metes out appropriate punishment to offenders. On the other hand, she actively finds ways to provide rehabilitation programs to prevent recurrence of the crime. As her special projects officer, Russell Brown III, states, "The court should not [be] a revolving door. We need to address underlying conditions."

Some of the grimmest cases that she sees are the men and women arraigned for solicitation and loitering for prostitution. Many of them begin the lifestyle in their young teens, and they depend on the lifestyle to support crack cocaine addictions. They need more than a prison sentence to turn them from their life on the streets. They need education and treatment programs.

Seeing this need, Judge Stokes spearheaded a retreat for thirteen municipal court judges in January 1998. The retreat was the first of its kind in Cleveland Municipal Court history. The judges met for two days of discussion and planning under the guidance of facilitator Max Stark. The retreat launched the Solicitation/Loitering for Prostitution Offenders Intervention Program, with Judge Stokes as chairperson.

The goals of the Solicitation/Loitering for Prostitution Offenders Intervention Program are threefold: 1. Provide a holistic intervention program that addresses health, emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs through a variety of rehabilitation, inpatient, and probation programs. 2. Establish a residential facility to provide six months of intensive treatment. 3. Build a coalition of businesses, churches, and educational centers to help the program.

The court needs a variety of professionals to assist them in the program’s success: grant-writers to find funding for the residential treatment, educators to create and teach a tailored curriculum, church leaders—especially female ministers for the female prison population—to provide counseling, and former prostitutes to witness as peer educators that a person can leave the lifestyle. The committee began meeting in the summer of 1998, and community support has been tremendous. Judge Stokes says she is "honored and blessed" by the number of talented professionals participating in the program’s development.

Judge Stokes looks forward to the future with anticipation. She sees the court becoming a facilitator for treatment as a means for preventing and/or deterring repeated crimes. Her colleagues are developing a flow chart from the moment of arrest through the sentencing phase to diagram every stage when intervention programs and rehabilitation services should be offered. They want to centralize resources and create effective strategies to help probation officers. As these events are coming together in remarkable ways, in addition to giving credit to her court colleagues, staff, and volunteers, Judge Stokes gives honor and credit to the Lord.

Anyone wishing to volunteer with the Solicitation/Loitering for Prostitution Offenders Intervention Program may contact Michael E. Flanagan, deputy court administrator, at (216) 664-3764.