Juvenile Drug Court: A Double Edged Sword!

As part of the rehabilitative approach of the juvenile criminal justice system, judges, defense counsel, prosecutors, and juvenile probation take a progressive approach in dealing with juvenile delinquents.

For example, each county will typically have its own drug court program which is an alternative to prosecuting a child with substance abuse issues.

Drug Court takes a progressive approach to juvenile substance abuse issues. Therapists, probation officers, and drug court staff help both the child and the child‘s family to address the substance abuse issue. The child and the parents participate in family counseling.

The child will attend alcohol and substance abuse counseling. The child will also undergo random urine analysis. In addition, the child will participate in outdoor team based confidence building activities to help the child stay clean.

Drug Court is an option for juveniles who have a criminal history that includes drug or alcohol related offenses. Upon entry, the juvenile must have a clean urine analysis to establish base levels for future drug testing. Once admitted, there are four stages of Drug Court that the juvenile must complete. Stage one will not commence until the child has a clean urine test. Each stage must be completed prior to moving to the next stage.

Drug Court can be completed in six months if the juvenile takes it seriously and complies with all of the demands placed on him or her. However, if a juvenile commits a violation while in drug court, the Drug Court team will vote on the type of sanction that should be imposed on the juvenile.

Common violations include but are not limited to a missed or positive (dirty) urine test, curfew violations, new criminal charges and truancy. The sanctions vary from not being able to move to the next stage to house arrest. For repeated violations, the juvenile may be kicked out of the Drug Court program. Termination from Drug Court is considered a serious probation violation frequently resulting in immediate detention (lock-up).

In short, Drug Court is a rather progressive approach to juvenile drug offenses. However, it is a double-edged sword. Drug Court is very demanding of its participants. Many kids simply cannot meet the burdens of the program. Unfortunately for those kids, there are few remaining options other than detention.

Those kids that are sentenced to and successfully complete Drug Court often turn their lives around. For those, both the child and the parents are typically very grateful for the assistance Drug Court provides in dealing with a very serious problem before it has gotten out of hand.

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