Juvenile Drug Courts JUVENILE DRUG COURTS Drugs and our youth, the numbers are rising. More and more children today are using drugs without their parents knowing. What happens when they get caught? It all depends on who caught them. If it is the parents, usually a big punishment. If it is law enforcement they may have to appear in front of drug courts specialized to handle juvenile cases.

Sometimes the parents may even turn them in, just for the treatment and help these special courts can offer. The juveniles are then referred to juvenile drug courts for help. Today there are 72 juvenile drug courts in operation in 41 states in the United States, with more to come in the future What exactly is a juvenile drug court? What do they do? How do they help? Why are more specialized courts coming up for juveniles? A juvenile drug court, as defined by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is “a juvenile drug court is defined as a drug court that focuses on juvenile delinquency (e.g., criminal) matters and status offenses (e.g., truancy) that involve substance-abusing juveniles.” (OJJDP; Juvenile and Family Drug Courts: An Overview, November 1996) Another way to look at juvenile drug courts is that they are special courts that provide judicial supervision for nonviolent juvenile offenders as they participate in addictions treatment services. Through an intensive, long-term program lasting from nine to 12 months, drug treatment courts monitor the offenders’ progress in treatment in an effort to stop their use of drugs, end their involvement in crime and improve their ability to function as responsible citizens and family members. The courts hold the offenders accountable for their progress in the program by requiring weekly or frequent random drug tests, participation in intensive treatment services on a regular basis (initially three to four times per week), and weekly appearances in court to allow the judge to determine each offender’s progress in treatment. With the seemingly rising numbers in juveniles with drug problems there is a need more than ever to specialize programs to help our nations youth.

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They are needed to help these children overcome their addiction and clean up their act and move on to bigger and better things. Mostly, first time drug offenders are sent to these courts to help before it is too late. Drugs are not the only thing that can send a juvenile to court, alcohol charges can as well. Another important aspect is to ensure that these teens stay clean. If they don’t they can end up with detention sentences, home incarceration, or possibly moved into the adult court system. Using one example of how drug courts work is from King County, Washington.

Superior Court Judge Laura Inveen is over the juvenile drug court in King County. “Twenty-five teenagers appear before her every Thursday in the 4-month-old drug court. All of the youths referred to the court have been either charged with a drug or alcohol offense, or they are accused of committing property crimes while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Juveniles charged with violent or sex-related offenses are excluded. Participating teenagers must attend weekly court hearings, complete court-ordered treatment, attend school, participate in individual, group and family counseling, and undergo random urine tests. After the first three months, youths who make progress can check in less frequently.

Failure to comply with any part of the program can result in penalties ranging from having to repeat an earlier phase of treatment, to spending a day on a work crew, or being jailed for a few days in the detention center. So far, one teenager has been removed from the program because he needed intensive inpatient mental health treatment. None of the youths have flunked. Parents are also expected to participate in the weekly check-ins to report on their children’s progress.” (Teichroeb) By this report, it seems that the drug courts may work for our youth. As with any other court system, juvenile drug courts are there to ensure the success of each individual child.

This is such a hot topic at this time because of the “get tough on drugs” debate. Americans don’t want their children growing up addicted to drugs and heading down the wrong path. Because of the implementation of specialized courts more individual treatment for the specific problems may be obtained. Instead of sending our youth to a typical everyday court, where they are thrown in with all other types of cases, we can now send them to a specialized court aimed at helping them overcome their problem. These specialized programs are so important in helping teens get clean. As a teen, they are more likely to be treated and released on their first time around.

They may not be as lucky as adults. No teenager likes to be in trouble and especially wants to stay out of court. These courts are so important to our youth because they can help them overcome obstacles they may not be able to overcome on their own. With peer pressure and the need to “fit in”, teens will turn to drugs and alcohol and think it makes them look cool. When this downward spiral of drug use and abuse, they will eventually get caught. Maybe not directly, but indirectly.

A friend of theirs doing the same things may get caught and turn all of their friends in to get themselves out of more trouble. After getting caught, they can be sent to these special courts for juveniles and bypass a lot of other troubles they may have encountered if they hadn’t been caught. With the courts help, they can be treated and hopefully scared enough not to relapse and find themselves in front of another judge. Drug Court programs bring the full weight of all participants willing to help these juveniles such as the judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, substance abuse treatment specialists, probation officer, law enforcement and correctional personnel, educational and vocational experts, community leaders and others, forcing the offender to deal with his or her substance abuse problem. (NADCP) Most juvenile court professionals who are establishing juvenile drug courts are initiating these programs to provide the intensive judicial intervention and supervision of juveniles involved in substance abuse that is not generally available through the traditional juvenile court process. In part because of high caseloads and in part as a result of a lack of comprehensive treatment resources, the proponents of juvenile drug courts feel that the traditional juvenile court is becoming a forum focusing more on the determination of guilt than on the court’s original mission of rehabilitation.

With the ever-growing prevalence of substance abuse among juveniles and the complexity entailed in their treatment, which must necessarily involve both the child and his/her living environment, the traditional juvenile justice process may be unable to deal effectively with the whole problem. The juvenile drug court is designed to fill this gap by providing immediate and continuous court intervent …