Pubdate: Tue, 17 Jun 2003
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2003 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Dave Munday
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Judge Sends Some Young Drug Offenders To Church Programs

A local judge looking for ways to help young drug offenders has been 
sending them to church.

"If they're not responding, it's one of the things we try," said Family 
Court Judge Charlie Segars-Andrews, who also oversees Charleston County 
Juvenile Drug Court. "We'll try any thing."

"We've seen some lives changed," she said.

Drug court is an alternative to detention for juveniles with drug problems. 
The court sends them to counseling, tutoring and community service to try 
to turn around their lives. They're required to attend and report back to 
the court as part of their probation.

Last year, Segars-Andrews started sending some juvenile offenders to 
church. About two dozen attended a weekly Christian Bible study called 
Alpha at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, where she is a member. The Rev. 
Alan Kilpatrick, who is a pastor at the church, a chaplain to the drug 
court and a recovering alcoholic, suggested the idea and monitors the boys.

Another dozen youthful offenders attended a new program called Camp Hope 
last week. In the morning, they sat through classes at the church on anger, 
hope and other topics, in which faith in God was offered as an integral 
part of the solution. In the afternoon, they went kayaking on Shem Creek or 
climbing at James Island County Park.Camp Hope is for boys from a Christian 
background who don't have summer jobs or another program to attend, 
Segars-Andrews said.

Segars-Andrews and Family Court Judge Jocelyn Cate volunteer their time, 
each overseeing 50 children. Often the court also orders counseling for the 

Drug court gets its money from the county and a $5 fee families pay every 
Monday when the court is in session, she said. Camp Hope cost the court 
about $475, mostly for the staff at the park, Kilpatrick said. The court 
also provided the van. The church contributed about $400.

Segars-Andrews said spending money on religious activities by the court is 
consistent with the Bush administration's emphasis on faith-based initiatives.

"I wish we had a cafeteria approach with more alternatives, but we don't," 
she said. "We need desperately to get people involved to try to help."

Not everyone supports the idea. The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of 
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sees it as part of a 
troubling trend.

"If essentially the judge is saying 'Go to church camp or go to jail,' that 
would be a constitutional problem," he said. "We don't fund religious 
conversions in this country."

The problem is that budget cuts are leaving social agencies throughout the 
country unable to provide enough services, he said.

"The trend is to cut secular services at state and federal levels and hope 
churches take up the slack," he said. "Politicians need to realize it's 
their obligation to solve the problems, not dump the problems on the 
church. Substituting religion for time-tested, secular services is a real 
bad idea."

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster is not familiar with Camp Hope but 
would probably defend it if anyone challenged the program, spokesman Trey 
Walker said.

"He supports alternative sentencing for youthful and first-time offenders, 
and any time you can get the church or other faith-based or civic 
organizations involved, only good things can happen," Walker said. OFFERING 

Last Wednesday morning, a purple Ford Club Wagon provided by the court 
pulled up at the church, and about a dozen youngsters piled out. Kilpatrick 
herded them inside, where they grabbed a snack and soft drink and took a 
seat in a classroom. Sharon Stallings, a church member who is an auxiliary 
probation officer for the S.C. Department of Justice, sat in the back to 
help keep order.

Tom Wheeler, a church member who works with family court through a ministry 
called Changing Families, drew a diagram of a brain and talked about how to 
handle anger. A youngster with multicolored hair and a silver pin through 
his lower lip asked plenty of questions. Another sat with his shirt pulled 
up over his face, but he peeped out occasionally and seemed to be listening.

Wheeler talked about forgiveness, occasionally referring to a verse in the 

"Start looking at yourself through God's eyes," he encouraged them.

After another snack break, they sat down with Kilpatrick, who was wearing 
four pieces of silver jewelry, including a cross and fish in his left ear, 
and a necklace with big wooden beads.

He talked about the day he was sitting in a London kitchen with a bottle of 
Scotch and a bread knife on the table.

He had just recently finished six weeks of rehabilitation for alcoholism 
and was drinking again. When the bottle was empty, he planned to cut his 

Instead, some sort of inner light flashed on, and he decided to change his 
life. That was 12 years ago, and he has not had a drink since. He later 
entered the ministry and then came to Charleston about two years ago.

"It is possible to change your life," he told them. "I believe in you guys. 
I know you're not satisfied with what you're doing."

The court's partnership with St. Andrew's Church started about a year ago, 
after Kilpatrick attended drug court to see if he could help. He sees a 
similar dynamic between alcohol and drug addiction.

"There's a lot of pain," he said. "It's not cool to admit they're hurting 
and in pain. I just want to give them some hope that it is possible to have 
a new start."

After Kilpatrick's talk, they broke for tacos, which were paid for and 
delivered by church members. The youngsters spent the rest of the day 
kayaking at Shem Creek. Church member Kurtz Smith, who owns Charleston 
Watersport Outfitter, donated the bright yellow kayaks and life jackets for 
the day.

By the end of the week, Kilpatrick was exhausted. They had seen and 
discussed "Bruce Almighty," a movie in which Jim Carrey plays God. They 
made their own rap CD. They went kayaking and fishing, and they climbed 
ropes and obstacles.

"I hope it did them some good," Kilpatrick said. "I hope they got a little 
glimmer of hope that life can be different."
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