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Drug Court Judge ‘Scary Mary’ Chrzanowski Featured on NBC’s ‘Dateline’: Watch

Television crews followed three offenders and an iron-fisted judge for a year.

Circuit Court Judge Mary Chrzanowski, who is known as "Scary Mary" because of her tough-talking demeanor, was profiled on NBC's "Dateline." (Screenshot: NBC)
Circuit Court Judge Mary Chrzanowski, who is known as "Scary Mary" because of her tough-talking demeanor, was profiled on NBC's "Dateline." (Screenshot: NBC)

Macomb County’s “Scary Mary,” the circuit judge who tries to scare drug addicts straight, was featured Sunday on the NBC News magazine “Dateline.”

Tough-talking Judge Mary Chrzanowski was profiled in the hour-long program, which followed three drug addicts participating in a drug court program that gives them a chance to stay out of jail. They must submit to frequent drug tests, go through counseling and have regular sessions with Scary Mary, who could kick them out.

They included a 15-year-old high school student,  41-year-old musician and a 23-year-old restaurant cook the “Dateline” crew followed for the better part of a year.

Tell Us:

  • How effective are drug courts in helping non-violent offenders turn their lives around and recover from their addictions?

Chzanowski’s volunteer job as a judge in the drug court allows her to show her compassionate side, but she also has to play the role of drill sergeant.

A recovered addict and alcoholic herself, Chrzanowski said her own personal struggle with substances has given her insight into what it takes to go straight. The judge, who said she began drinking heavily after law school, has been sober for a decade.

Drug court participants learn quickly that the iron-fisted Chrzanowski, who earned the “Scary Mary” handle from a prisoner. is in charge.

“I have a difficult time understanding, ‘Well, why can’t they just stop (using substances) like I did?’ “


T as in Truth June 11, 2014 at 05:03 AM
Drugs are a victimless crime. We created artifical problems by making them illegal. Why does everyone care, what someone else does? Open your 8th grade history books to the section regarding prohibition. Maybe we don't have to relive the mistakes of the past. How many jails do we need? How many dead both police and users? How many children have to resort to selling to create a financial future?
RL June 11, 2014 at 09:06 AM
I agree with you to a point, but some people who use illegal/legal substances cause problems for the rest of society, not including robbery/burglary to get money to pay for their substances. For example, the young man profiled in that report was found passed out in his car in front of somebody's house after scoring some drugs. Most of us would not want to deal with that type of situation. Even if currently illegal substances were legal and you could walk into a drug store and buy a hit for $5, there are some people whose use would get so out of control that they still would not have any money to buy cheap legal drugs, so they would still end up robbing other people and breaking into homes/business. Nonetheless, I do think we should take a look at treating the use/abuse of harmful substances as a public health problem instead of a criminal problem, unless the person is committing crimes to feed their habit.
Sue Czarnecki June 11, 2014 at 09:39 AM
I have a legal background. And decades ago, at the Detroit Recorders' Criminal Court, was a judge named "Mean Geraldine" Bledsoe. In my mind, she was the first Judge Judy.
Suzanne White June 11, 2014 at 11:25 AM
We watched this program and I was cheering for the Judge. We need many more like Judge Mary to scare straight these kids. Keep up the good work Judge Mary!
Barb Narb June 11, 2014 at 11:28 AM
I was featured on Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator", where is the Patch article about me? I even had a 1-on-1 interview with Chris Hansen.

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