Juvenile Drug Courts

.. ion that includes requiring the child to participate in treatment, submit to frequent drug testing, appear at regular and frequent court status hearings, and comply with other court conditions geared to accountability, rehabilitation, long-term sobriety, and cessation of criminal activity. Enhancements introduced by the juvenile drug court to the traditional court process for handling these types of cases include: Immediate intervention by the court and continuous supervision of the progress of the juvenile and his/her family by the judge; development of a program of treatment and rehabilitation services that addresses the family’s needs, not simply the child’s; judicial oversight and coordination of treatment and rehabilitation services provided to promote accountability and reduce duplication of effort; immediate response by the court to the needs of the child and his/her family and to noncompliance by either the child with the court’s program conditions; and judicial leadership in bringing together the schools, treatment resources, and other community agencies to work together to achieve the drug court’s goals. Not only are there juvenile drug courts but there are also adult drug courts. There are some differences between the two but not much.

In the few short years that juvenile drug courts have been operating, practitioners have identified several key differences between the populations and circumstances of adult and juvenile courts. Among them are the following: the drugs of choice differ, as does the nature of drug involvement; family issues become a primary focus in juvenile drug court; school issues replace work and training issues in the juvenile drug court environment; the fear of loss or punishment is often a key factor in adult rehabilitation; with less to lose and fewer sanctions, juveniles don’t share these fears, or the motivation to change. Because of the difference between adults and juveniles, treatment should also differ. Treatment facilities that are equipped and/or willing to treat juveniles are rare. Inpatient treatment for juvenile drug users is rarer still. Although treatment for juvenile is lagging behind, it doesn’t mean the help they need is far off. Juvenile drug offenders commonly have a long history of school problems.

They have alienated themselves from their schools, and the schools, in turn, are often relieved to be rid of them. As jurisdictions across the country seek to establish juvenile drug court systems, there is a natural, and seemingly reasonable, tendency among court practitioners to adapt existing adult drug court principles to juvenile drug court systems. When the Florida and Kentucky courts initiated juvenile programs, they believed that the adult model would work. To a degree, it does; the two court systems share some common goals and characteristics, as do the offenders who come before them. However, the juvenile drug court population presents challenges that are in many ways more complex than those arising in the adult arena, as their needs are different and often more difficult to address.

In a short time, these issues will become easier to address. There is a lot of research and money going into these “pilot” drug courts. There are a lot of positive things coming out of them. As noted in the drug court from Washington, so far, none of the juveniles who have participated in the program have failed. With this juvenile drug court movement, it has been found that “the populations and caseloads of most juvenile courts have changed dramatically during the past decade.

Delinquency and dependency have become far more complex, involving more serious and violent criminal activity and escalating degrees of substance abuse. During the past 2 years several jurisdictions have tried to determine how juvenile courts can adapt the experiences of adult drug courts to deal more effectively with the increasing number of substance-abusing juvenile offenders. Juvenile drug courts, however, face unique challenges not encountered in the adult drug court environment, such as the need to: counteract the negative influences of peers, gangs, and family members; address the needs of the family, especially families with substance abuse problems; comply with confidentiality requirements for juvenile proceedings while obtaining information necessary to address the juvenile’s problems and progress. We must motivate juvenile offenders to change, especially given their sense of invulnerability and lack of maturity. Accordingly, the development of juvenile drug courts has required special strategies.

The following characteristics are common to juvenile drug courts compared with traditional juvenile courts: much earlier and much more comprehensive intake assessments; much greater focus on the functioning of the juvenile and the family throughout the juvenile court process; much closer integration of the information obtained during the assessment process as it relates to the juvenile and the family; much greater coordination among the court, the treatment community, the school system, and other community agencies in responding to the needs of the juvenile and the court; much more active and continuous judicial supervision of the juvenile’s case and treatment process; increased use of immediate sanctions for noncompliance and incentives for progress for both the juvenile and family.” (Roberts) All in all, drug courts are going to make a tremendous difference in our country. This is already visible by the program discussed in this paper. With all the advances they are making and will make in these programs, it is easy to see they will be a major influence on our youth in the near future. The programs as the develop more and become widely know may help to defer juveniles from using drugs and alcohol. Although it will always be out there, with the thought of having to appear in a specialized court, may be enough to keep most of our youth away from drugs and crime. I foresee these specialized courts having a great impact on our society.

Kentucky has began a drug court and, with hopeful success, will spread throughout the rest of the state. I feel completely that these programs be allowed to continue and spread throughout our great nation. I think all the judicial systems need to be broken down into more specialized programs like the family, adult, and juvenile drug courts. With that breakdown, we could give the individuals the attention they truly need to overcome their addictions and get them back on their feet to success. All they need is a little more care and time to help them see the light.

Bibliography OJJDP; Juvenile and Family Drug Courts: An Overview, November 1996 Teichroeb, Ruth; “Juvenile Drug Court Mixes Caring, Coercion”, Seattle Post Intelligence, http://www.seattle-pi.com/local/juvi07.shtml; accessed on April 6, 2000 National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP); http://www.nadcp.org/index.html Roberts, Marilyn; The Juvenile Drug Court Movement.; Drug Courts Program Office, March 1997. Government Essays.