Juvenile Drug Court – How Much Do You Know?

Have you ever heard the term “Juvenile Drug Court” in the news? If you’ve not, or if you’ve not been personally affected by one of those court cases, chances are, you don’t know much about the court, or JDC. As such, here’s a primer on the program.

Juvenile Drug Court is a program that attempts to change the behavior of juveniles who regularly use drugs and alcohol. It also aims to stop unruly and delinquent behavior that comes with those habits. The program uses intense judicial and probation supervision; individual, group and family counseling; drug abuse treatment and educational opportunities, and the use of sanctions and incentives.

Program Philosophy
The mission of JDC is to “reduce juvenile delinquency and unruly behaviors and substance abuse by referring youth to a court-managed treatment program that holds them accountable and emphasizes personal responsibility.” It is a partnership between the court, state’s attorney, school system and treatment professionals.

JDC is a post-conviction program, where if successfully completed, the current charge may be dismissed from the juvenile’s record if he/she remains offense- and drug-free for a two-year period.

Program Structure
JDC is set up into four phases where the requirements become less restrictive as the participant progresses through the program. During the program, each participant must complete a minimum of 20 hours of meaningful community service. Parents must also attend progress hearings. Upon completion of all four phases, the participant graduates from JDC.

The four phases of JDC contain each or some of the following elements:

  • Weekly/biweekly drug tests
  • Probation contacts
  • Education and support group participation
  • Individual treatment (AA meetings)
  • Maintain financial obligations
  • Participate in a 12-step program
  • Maintain stable housing, employment, training and education
  • Maintain a prescribed amount of sobriety time
  • Progress review hearings by the assigned judge

Qualifications to participate in JDC:

  • Age 13-17
  • Assessed with a drug or alcohol problem
  • No pending or prior violent felony charges
  • No prior terminations from JDC
  • Admission to the offense
  • Referring offense may be either drug or non-drug related

As you can see, the program is comprehensive and intense. This gives the participant all the tools for success. The program only works if the offender buys into all the requirements, and is supported by their family and friends.

In a future post, we will look at recidivism and success stories of drug court.

(Mike Austin is the School Resource Officer at Davies High School. He can be reached at michael.austin@fargo.k12.nd.us, or at 446-5624.)