After serving 22 years on the bench, the Honorable John S. Kennedy has called it a career. Though he may have stepped down as Common Pleas Judge for Pennsylvania’s 19th Judicial District, he’s leaving behind a legacy—one of changed lives.
Shortly after beginning his judicial career, Kennedy attended a conference on drug courts that would shape his tenure as a judge. He quickly went to work establishing similar options in York County, PA, eventually resulting in four adult treatment courts that for many, have been a lifesaver.
Solutions That Last
In 1997, Kennedy established the York County Drug Treatment Court, and in 2002, he worked to develop the state’s first Reentry Court Program, to help incarcerated offenders reintegrate into society.
Kennedy then set his aim on something that had long presented a serious challenge in York County—reducing DUI recidivism. In 2012, Kennedy launched Target 25 after observing that many DUI defendants continued to commit drunk-driving offenses in the period between their arrest and trial dates. Prior to 2012, nearly 25% of cases in York County courts were for DUI and 25% of those cases involved repeat offenders. In 2011 alone, 125 people accounted for 600 repeat DUI arrests.
For Kennedy, the numbers were both staggering and unacceptable.
Now, under Target 25, DUI suspects with prior drunk driving convictions or pending cases are immediately arrested, and taken for a blood-alcohol test and a bail hearing. In contrast to typical “catch and release” approaches or traditional bail requirements, Target 25 requires pretrial supervision with alcohol monitoring for all repeat DUI offenders. In addition, sentencing often includes house arrest and continuous alcohol monitoring in place of jail time.
Because of this program, York County saw a 90% reduction in the number of DUI offenders arrested for subsequent DUI offenses within the same year.
Building A Legacy
Judge Kennedy’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2015, Kennedy was recognized by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR) for his work in establishing Target 25 when he was honored with the Kevin E. Quinlan Award for Excellence in Traffic Safety.
In the York Daily Record story, Kennedy said of his efforts: “You see the changes in people. . . . You hear the stories at graduation. You see the families that are reunited. And you know that these people leave and they’re changed—and that the change lasts.”
“He was really dedicated to helping people turn their lives around,” added Retired Common Pleas Judge Penny L. Blackwell.
Kennedy certainly created something to last, not just for York County, but for its citizens as well.