Pubdate: Sat, 30 Oct 2004
Source: Messenger-Inquirer (KY)
Copyright: 2004 Messenger-Inquirer
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)


Four years ago, Daviess District Court Judge Joe Castlen recalls, he 
thought half the kids who appeared in juvenile court had substance abuse 

Now, he told reporter Jim Mayse the other day, "almost every one of them 
has a substance abuse problem."

Castlen's comments reiterate what police, prosecutors and substance-abuse 
professionals know -- the drug problems that are plaguing the court system 
extend increasingly into the youngest offenders.

That makes especially welcome the news this week that Daviess County will 
get $15,000 from the state Department of Juvenile Justice to start a pilot 
juvenile drug court program.

Local officials have worked diligently and persistently with the help of 
Community Solutions for Substance Abuse to get the grant. The courts and 
police here have been especially progressive in realizing the importance of 
treatment and flexibility in dealing with drug problems, realizing that 
simply tossing people into jail and throwing away the key does not address 
the problem.

Evidence of the success of their approaches came later in the week when 15 
more people graduated from the county's drug court.

The graduates had been through nearly a year of intensive treatment that 
has helped them find jobs, re-establish relationships and overcome their 
addictions to alcohol or drugs.

"The healing that goes on here is inspirational," Castlen said.

And that it is. These are folks who, a few years ago, probably would have 
been in jail for a while, then back out and most likely to fall back into 
their earlier addiction. And in their need to finance their addiction, they 
would likely end up back in court not just for drug possession or 
manufacture, but for crimes such as shoplifting or burglary.

The cycle only worsens. Their jail records make it harder to find 
employment and reinforce the social networks that encourage and enable the 
substance abuse.

Now, by January, Daviess County expects to be able to extend the benefits 
of the drug court program to youths ages 13 to 17.

The program will be open only to teens charged with nonviolent offenses and 
will combine strict monitoring with counseling.

It will be an important step forward in our fight against substance abuse.
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