Madison County Juvenile Drug Court graduation is Dec. 18

December 14, 2006

The Madison County Juvenile Drug Court will celebrate a graduation at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18, at the Madison County Courthouse at 128 W. North Street in Canton.

Rep. Alyce Griffin Clarke of Jackson, one of the pioneers of the Drug Court movement in Mississippi, will be the guest speaker. Madison County Court Judge William Agin, who heads the Drug Court, will preside.

Three teens will graduate from the program. Thirty-two remain enrolled in the program, said Drug Court Coordinator Tiffany Parker.

Members of the news media are invited to attend the graduation. News coverage of the proceedings is welcomed because the Court believes that it is important for the community to know about the success of the Drug Court program. However, reporters, photographers and editors are reminded that participants are juveniles enrolled in a Youth Court program. Because of the confidentiality required by law in Mississippi Youth Court matters, members of the media are asked to refrain from publishing or broadcasting any information or photographs which would in any way identify any individual juvenile participant or family member.

Judge Agin said, “We all know the physical, mental, emotional and legal problems that juveniles can create through drug activity. The purpose of Drug Court is to try to help them avoid those problems before those activities negatively impact their lives.”

The first participant entered the Madison County Juvenile Drug Court program in May 2004. Ten people have previously graduated from the program.

The program accepts participants ages 12 through 17 who have been referred to the Youth Court after having either been charged with nonviolent delinquent acts or deemed to be children in need of supervision. Parents of some of the children sought the help of the Youth Court, Parker said.

The program targets teens with alcohol and drug problems. The act which brings them into contact with the Youth Court does not have to be a drug or alcohol violation. However, the majority of teens in the program are there as a result of possession of marijuana or some other controlled substance, Parker said. Marijuana is the most prevalent form of substance abuse among teens who come into the program, followed by prescription drug abuse, Parker said.

The one-year program uses early intervention and intensive supervision to steer juveniles away from alcohol and drug abuse. Phase One is six months of weekly court sessions and weekly drug testing. During Phase Two, which lasts at least three months, participants attend court sessions twice a month, meet with the case manager and are drug-tested twice a month. In Phase Three, which lasts three months, participants go to court, meet with the case manager and are drug tested monthly.

Four juvenile drug courts operate in Mississippi now. The newest is in Rankin County. The other two are in Adams County and DeSoto County. A total of 18 Drug Court programs operate across the state.