How This Ohio Judge is Helping Women Escape the Sex-Trafficking World | Interview with The Honorable Judge Heather Russell

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Hey everybody! Welcome to Conversations with Doc Martin, where we talk to extraordinary people doing extraordinary things! 

In today’s interview, we talk to The Honorable Judge Heather S. Russell!

Judge Russel has had a very distinguished career! She obtained her degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1983. She then went on to become a Hamilton County assistant prosecuting attorney, was elected to the Loveland, Ohio city counsel, and then since 2002 has served multiple terms on the Hamilton County Municipal Court as well as serving as a mental health specialty court judge. 

Not only is she well-accomplished in her field, she’s been recognized by the community and her peers time and time again! She was recently recognized as one of Cincinnati Enquirer’s 10 Women of the Year awardees, in 2019 she was named as 1 of 3 Outstanding Alumni by the University of Cincinnati Law Alumni Association, she’s been awarded the Model of Justice Award from the Ohio Crime Victim Services, and in 2018 was awarded Cincinnati Bar Association’s Outstanding Female Counselor!

But all this isn’t why we’re talking with Judge Russell (or Heather as she told me to call her) today. Since 2014, she has volunteered her time to help women by presiding over C.H.A.N.G.E. court, a specialty court which stands for Changing Habits And setting New Goals is Empowering, that is focused on helping women change their lives for the better by giving them the help and tools they need to escape the world of sex and human tracking.

Heather starts out by telling us a bit about her backstory, how CHANGE court came to be, and where it’s idea came from. She admits that it wasn’t her idea to create it, but rather was the idea from the local police department. She talks about how it started with neighborhood complaints that led to constant arrests, but the arrests and increased fines didn’t seem to be decreasing the traffic. The police, who were already dealing with over-crowded jail cells, were forced to release the lowest level offenders and therefore, essentially had no choice but to allow those arrested for prostitution back onto the city streets. Realizing that those arrested for prostitution had no alternatives except to go back to their day to day activities, the poice decided to seek out the help of Judge Russell in designing a program to help these women get their lives in order. 

Judge Russell goes on to talk about how working with her participants of the CHANGE court has also helped her. She says that while she does CHANGE court voluntarily, she still works full time in municipal court, and her experiences with the victims in CHANGE court has been able to give her a better perspective on why people do what they do and how they end up in front of her in the first place, even for things like minor traffic violations or shoplifting and petty crimes. She talks about how oftentimes, most minor crimes can be traced back to either drug problems or potentially childhood trauma. 

We talk about all of this, awe-inspiring success stories, and so much more in our full interview on the Conversations with Doc Martin Youtube channel. 

Check out the full interview by clicking here!

Remember, life speaks to you, and if you think it doesn’t, you’re not listening.

In Gratitude,
Doc Martin

Find More of Judge Russell’s Important Work Below:

CHANGE court:
Talbert House:
Strategies to End Homelessness:


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