Pubdate: Tue, 25 May 2004
Source: Daily Herald (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Daily Herald Company
Author: Tona Kunz, Staff
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Youth)


In an effort to stem the tide of teens committing crimes, Kane County
has started the state's fourth juvenile drug court.

The alternative to incarceration is similar to programs in Cook and
Will counties and the city of Peoria.

So far, eight of the 15 slots in the pilot program have been filled by
teens ranging in age from 14 to 17. The teens agree to undergo random
drug tests several times a week, intensive counseling and job training
in exchange for avoiding jail time.

Nationally, similar programs cut down on repeat offenders. According
to a 2003 National Drug Control Study, only 27.5 percent of drug court
graduates were back in trouble two years after completing the program,
compared to 58.6 percent of people imprisoned for drug offenses.

"Our goal is to decrease recidivism and get at the root problem -
their drug use," said Kristee Jackson, Kane drug court coordinator.
"That has been fueling residential burglaries and other crimes."

The idea for the teen drug court rose out of talks with the city of
Aurora youth department and a startling change in crime statistics,
officials said.

In the last decade, court officials noticed that teens with midlevel
drug habits were falling through the cracks of the care system. Their
habits were too strong to break during out-patient treatment, but they
didn't qualify for in-patient treatment, Jackson said.

Without a care system tailored to them, they stayed hooked on drugs
and turned to crime to feed their habits. Juvenile drug arrests
skyrocketed and repeat offenders became more commonplace, Jackson
said. At the same time, fewer teens sought help to break their habits.

In 1990 in Kane County, 1,000 out of every 100,000 teens ended up in
juvenile court. By 2000, that number had jumped to 1,800, according to
the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. At the same time,
the rate of teens seeking help for substance abuse problems declined
by about 46 percent.

Officials decided they needed a way to motivate nonviolent, teenage
offenders to kick their drug habits. A program that offered a choice
between jail or counseling seemed like a good start.

"I think it is needed," said Michael Moran executive director of
Breaking Free, a substance abuse clinic in Aurora. "I think it gives
kids more of an opportunity at recovery."

Breaking Free has been tapped to handle drug court participants from
St. Charles down to the southern tip of the county. Renz Addiction
Center in Elgin will take teens from the northern areas. If the
program is successful, county officials hope to open it to more teens,
possibly as soon as October.

The program takes one to two years to complete, depending on the teen.
Current participants are struggling with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine
and methamphetamine addictions.

An adult version of the program started in 2000 in Kane has already
produced more than 81 graduates who have been drug-free for a year or

Drugs: Officials hope to expand program
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