A change in plans for court­house con­stant

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

El­iz­a­beth “Lizanne” Red­mond, if you ask her, will tell you that the most re­ward­ing part of her multi-faceted pro­fes­sional ca­reer were the 20 or so years she spent with the Ch­ester County Depart­ment of Pro­ba­tion, Pa­role, and Pre-trial Ser­vices.

“It was a pas­sion of mine,” Red­mond said in a re­cent in­ter­view, sit­ting in a con­fer­ence room on the sixth floor of the Ch­ester County Jus­tice Cen­ter. “Adult pro­ba­tion is the hard­est work­ing depart­ment in the county. They do what is right for the peo­ple who come through the (crim­i­nal jus­tice) sys­tem. I loved work­ing there.”

But some­times even the great­est re­ward comes with a price.

Red­mond, who started work­ing in the pro­ba­tion field af­ter grad­u­a­tion, stepped away from her po­si­tion as a su­per­vi­sor in the of­fice on May 13, “The only Fri­day the 13th in 2016” she is quick to point out. Al­though well shy of her nor­mal re­tire­ment age, Red­mond said she had come to see the work she was do­ing over­see­ing cases for the county’s var­i­ous treat­ment court pro­grams, most no­tably Drug Court, as “over­whelm­ing.”

She stepped aside in May in an­tic­i­pa­tion of a one-year an­niver­sary of an event that she said deeply af­fected her abil­ity to deal pro­fes­sion­ally with those de­fen­dants she saw com­ing through the pro­ba­tion of­fices with drug ad­dic­tions, a de­mo­graphic that makes up a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of peo­ple in the jus­tice sys­tem.

On July 22, 2015, Thomas Red­mond, her nephew, died of a heroin over­dose at age 22. He had just been re­leased from a 28-day re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion stay at the Malvern In­sti­tute, not far from

the home where Red­mond her­self grew up in and now lives. A drug user since his early teens, Thomas Red­mond tried to use the drug he’d be­come ad­dicted to in the same amount he was used to.

“It was a recipe for dis­as­ter for him,” Red­mond said in the in­ter­view. “Peo­ple use what they used be­fore, and their sys­tem just isn’t ready for it.”

Red­mond said the feel­ing she had at his death was over­pow­er­ing. “I had helped hundreds of peo­ple, and yet I couldn’t help the one per­son that was the most im­por­tant to me.”

Red­mond grew up in Wil­lis­town, and grad­u­ated from Villanova Univer­sity where, her cousin, P.J. Red­mond, said she kept a horse, named Soul Sur­vivor, for four years and even­tu­ally rode home through the fields of eastern Ch­ester County. She started work­ing for the county’s pro­ba­tion of­fice, di­rected there by an un­cle who worked in the county court­house.

She left the of­fice, and the state, in 1987 to live and work in Se­dona, Ari­zona, but re­turned in 1994 be­cause she “missed it.” In the late 1990s, she grad­u­ated from Wi­dener School of Law, and be­gan work­ing as a crim­i­nal de­fense at­tor­ney, first with fel­low Wi­dener alum­nus Daw­son R. Muth and then with famed de­fense at­tor­ney John J. Duffy of West Ch­ester.

She re­turned to the pro­ba­tion of­fice in 2009, and be­came in­tri­cately in­volved with Drug Court. That pro­gram al­lows non-vi­o­lent of­fend­ers whose crim­i­nal be­hav­ior is linked to their drug or al­co­hol use to work to­ward era­sure of their crim­i­nal records and, most im­por­tantly, end­ing their ad­dic­tions through a highly in­ten­sive over­sight and re­view process.

Red­mond, who her cousin calls “the best prob­lem-solver in Ch­ester County,” was able to put her tal­ents to work.

“It is one of my big­gest strengths, solv­ing prob­lems,” she ac­knowl­edged. “I do not see an ob­sta­cle that I can’t get over. I al­ways an­tic­i­pate ev­ery prob­lem that lies ahead, and have a solution for it.”

Her work was rec­og­nized not only by her su­per­vi­sors in the pro­ba­tion of­fice, but also by the judges who over­see the treat­ment court uni­verse.

“She has been a con­stant in the court­house,” said Com­mon Pleas Judge Phyl­lis Stre­i­tel, now the su­per­vis­ing judge for the county’s treat­ment court. “She has such a wealth of knowl­edge, and she was such an as­set to the of­fice. She knew all the an­gles.

“She did her work with com­pas­sion and with a good sense of hu­mor, which is prob­a­bly the only way she could have lasted as long as she did,” Stre­i­tel said.

“Her ded­i­ca­tion to those strug­gling with the law and ad­dic­tion is re­mark­able and she will fight un­til the bit­ter end for her peo­ple,” said Kris­ten Mam­marella Timko, a para­le­gal with the Lamb McEr­lane law firm in West Ch­ester who worked with Red­mond in the past and looks to her as a men­tor.

But Red­mond said that her equi­lib­rium and abil­ity to deal with the prob­lems she saw among the of­fend­ers she came across be­gan to de­te­ri­o­rate af­ter the over­dose death of her nephew. “I kind of lost my way a lit­tle bit,” she said.

In­stead of be­ing able to deal with the of­fend­ers dis­pas­sion­ately and re­al­is­ti­cally, “I kept see­ing him in ev­ery­thing I did. Ev­ery­one’s case be­came life or death for me. I lost my healthy bound­ary, and I started to iden­tify with the ad­dicts and their strug­gle, and I could not ef­fec­tively deal with them.

“It took its toll on me, phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally,” Red­mond al­lowed. “I just thought, ‘What am I do­ing?’”

Red­mond sat down and “ran the num­bers” of her fi­nances, and found her­self able to leave her po­si­tion and “take the sum­mer off.” She now works part-time for Muth and at­tor­ney Fran­cis Miller of West Ch­ester, men she has known since law school. In­deed, the morn­ing she met with a reporter, she han­dled the case of a 19-yearold woman who was en­ter­ing Drug Court and try­ing to over­come an ad­dic­tion of pre­scrip­tion drugs.

Red­mond re­mains deeply com­mit­ted to the ef­fort to deal with ad­dic­tion is­sues in the county, in­clud­ing the Warm Hand­Off pro­gram, which gets im­me­di­ate help to those who have suf­fered drug over­doses. She said part of the prob­lem is get­ting the com­mu­nity to view drug ad­dic­tion as a dis­ease as preva­lent as al­co­hol abuse.

“De­spite all the peo­ple who are dy­ing from heroin over­doses, there is still a stigma at­tached to drug ad­dicts that isn’t there for al­co­holics,” she said. “It is hurt­ing ev­ery so­cio-economic back­ground of peo­ple you can think of. It is spi­ral­ing out of con­trol. And hav­ing an ad­dict who can re­late to an­other ad­dict talk to them, to get them help, that is a beau­ti­ful thing.”

Red­mond sad she con­sid­ers her­self in a “soft­re­tire­ment” mode, but is open to what comes her way. “I’ve got to pay the rent. But I am go­ing to see what the world has to of­fer me,” she said.

Fundraiser for fight­ing opi­oid cri­sis

In an ef­fort to raise aware­ness of the im­pact of the na­tion’s dan­ger­ous opi­oid and heroin ad­dic­tion epi­demic and its reach into Ch­ester County, of­fi­cials are or­ga­niz­ing a “Color 5K Run/Walk” event on Nov. 5 in West Ch­ester, funds from which will go to county agen­cies that are bat­tling the ad­dic­tion prob­lem on mul­ti­ple fronts. Spon­sor­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties at many lev­els are avail­able for com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­u­als to off­set the cost of the Color 5K Run/Walk and raise ad­di­tional funds. For more in­for­ma­tion con­tact Re­becca Brain, Ch­ester County Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Co­or­di­na­tor, at 610344-6279 or email rbrain@chesco.org.

“Her ded­i­ca­tion to those strug­gling with the law and ad­dic­tion is re­mark­able and she will fight un­til the bit­ter end for her peo­ple.” — Kris­ten Mam­marella-Timko, a para­le­gal with the Lamb McEr­lane law firm in West Ch­ester


Lizanne Red­mond, cen­ter, is seen with col­leagues Fran­cis Miller, left, and Daw­son R. Muth in front of the Ch­ester County Jus­tice Cen­ter.

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