It felt like "a punch in the guts" for Acting Justice Richard Refshauge the first time he had to cancel a drug and alcohol treatment order and send its recipient to prison.
"It was really horrible," the acting ACT Supreme Court judge says.
"I don't like it any more [now], but you do inevitably get a little bit inured to it. But I hate it. I hate it."
Having to lock people up is par for the course when you're a judge.
But Acting Justice Refshauge is not your typical judicial officer.
They do "crazy stuff", as he puts it, in his courtroom, where he runs the drug and alcohol sentencing list that celebrated its second anniversary on Friday.
During the past two years, treatment orders have been available in the ACT as a sentencing option for certain offenders whose addiction issues contributed to their crimes.
Acting Justice Refshauge gives these people jail sentences of between one and four years, which are suspended in favour of treatment programs designed to address the root cause of their offending.
If they complete these successfully, participants avoid serving time behind bars.
They also receive a round of applause in Acting Justice Refshauge's courtroom.
"Now, to an old, conservative lawyer like me, clapping in court ... I mean, crazy stuff," he laughs.
Only five people out of the 46 who have started a treatment program have graduated so far, but this is not surprising when the relevant orders run for at least a year and often for longer.
By the time someone reaches the end of a treatment order, which can involve things like residential rehabilitation, counselling and employment training, Acting Justice Refshauge knows them well.
While judges typically sentence an offender and "wash their hands of the matter", as he describes it, he supervises drug and alcohol treatment order recipients and sees them, at least initially, each week.
They must return to his courtroom for regular reviews, where their progress is discussed and Acting Justice Refshauge works with them to address any areas of concern as they attempt to get back on the straight and narrow.
During these visits, he refers to them by their first names rather than "Mr This and Mr That", and speaks to them, he says, as if they are members of his family, friends or someone he has just bumped into on the street.
On one occasion earlier this year, while those attending their reviews waited for news on whether urinalysis tests would be conducted that afternoon, the judge sought to pass the time by asking: "So, who can sing a song?"
This is the sort of levity one would not ordinarily associate with court, but the offenders roared with laughter in an obvious display of the rapport Acting Justice Refshauge had developed with them.
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"They're all human beings," the judge says of those who appear before him.
"There's something good there.
"Almost everyone who comes into the criminal justice system is a good person who's done bad things.
"[Many of them] start off with a huge disadvantage in life and when they do good things, when they can overcome that, when they can do better, it is so affirming.
"That also makes it so sad when they fall over."
Acting Justice Refshauge admits his connection with the participants in the treatment scheme has resulted in him taking his work more personally than he did when he was a more "traditional" judge.
He describes his disappointment at having to cancel treatment orders in some cases as a consequence of non-compliance or reoffending, resulting in the recipient needing to serve their sentence behind bars.
As ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury tells the Sunday Canberra Times, treatment orders will not suit everyone and some people given the benefit of avoiding prison stints will fail to complete their programs.
Acting Justice Refshauge knows this as well, but that knowledge does not make his task easy when he needs to go from being an offender's "encourager-in-chief" or "favourite uncle" when they are doing well to being "the strict headmaster" and placing them in custody if that is what has to happen.
"I feel, also, a little bit as though I've failed because the idea is to keep them out [of jail]," the judge says of needing to incarcerate some offenders he has worked hard with. "I do feel troubled."
Two years in and with the COVID-19 pandemic having slowed its progress for a period of time, the drug and alcohol sentencing list's long-term future is unclear.
It is currently funded until 2022-23, but Mr Rattenbury says a formal evaluation into its effectiveness is yet to be completed.
The Attorney-General is optimistic, however, that the ACT will enjoy the same positive results as other jurisdictions that have had similar schemes in place for some time.
He expects treatment orders, which he insists are not a "get out of jail free card", will eventually reduce the number of people going to prison by reducing rates of reoffending and stopping some people ever coming back before the courts.
"This model has worked very well in other places," he says.
"It won't work for everybody. People will fail. But if we can get some people successfully through the program, putting their lives back on track, it's great for them, it's great for their family and it's great for the whole community because, if they're no longer out there committing the crimes to support their drug habit, the whole community is safer and better off."
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