Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Fri, Nov. 22

Editorial: Help juveniles not end up back in handcuffs

Sessions in Yavapai County Juvenile Court Center's drug court are studies in tough love.

The courtroom is usually standing-room only, packed with juveniles who are in some phase of fulfilling consequences for drug and alcohol abuse, and alongside them are their parents or foster parents and their probation officers.

The juvenile court judge heaps praise on the kids who are taking his orders seriously by completing their community service hours, turning in clean urine analyses, attending recovery programs, applying for jobs, working on their schooling and whatever else that he has ordered.

Restorative justice - giving young offenders all the tools they need to take responsibility for their lives in hopes of redirecting them toward productive futures - is the philosophy of the juvenile court center.

Watching the youth stand up and face the judge is both heart-warming and heart-wrenching. Most show progress, some even receive small rewards along the way. The drug court "highs" come on graduation days, when one or two jubilant youths have reached the ultimate goal of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and are free of the demons that had possessed them. No better testimony attests to success than hearing healthy recovered youth talk about renewed life.

Once in a while, a teen stumbles and goes back to detention in handcuffs - a disturbing sight.

But, no kid has to end up in this courtroom if we all work harder to instill in our youth that drugs and alcohol ruin lives.

A multitude of programs are out there aimed at keeping young people off drugs and alcohol. A particular one that Courier readers learned about in Saturday's edition pairs middle-school children with high school student mentors.

The high schoolers will act as role models for middle schoolers, emphasizing that staying off drugs and alcohol has kept them on a steady course of achievement, assuring their success as adults.

The Prescott Police Department developed the program and bases its philosophy on a known fact: Adults can preach all they want, but all too often that rhetoric risks falling on deaf ears. If high schoolers are doing the talking, there's a far greater chance that the middle schoolers will listen and look up to them, as well.

We often attain goals with baby steps. But, this program is a giant step in educating kids about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

Yet, the image of a teen who graduated from drug court recently projects a powerful message. Her probation officer and others there to support her couldn't say enough about what a "gift" her spirit and determination had been to those around her during her journey to recovery.

She already realizes the gift she has given to herself - sobriety, a fresh start and a future, but overcoming her addiction wasn't easy. If more young people heard stories such as hers, they would surely be in awe of her success. They might decide, too, not to go where she has been.

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