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Juvenile substance abuse program dissolved in St. Johns County

Discussion in 'Community Info and Help' started by joshua minaya, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. joshua minaya

    joshua minaya Active Contributor

    Judges dealing with juveniles arrested on drug related or substance abuse charges in St. Johns County used to have three choices when it came to sentencing.

    Offenders could either be placed on probation, committed to a juvenile detention center or offered the opportunity to participate in Juvenile Drug Court. The third option no longer is available.

    The program, which had been available to juveniles of St. Johns County since 2010, was dissolved by a judge’s order for fiscal year 2015, according to a budget recommendation letter sent to the St. Johns County Commission from the St. Johns County Health and Human Services Department.

    Ludi Lelis, court communications officer for the seventh judicial circuit, said the program ended because there were not enough juveniles signing up to justify spending the money for a full-time program.

    “It was a case load issue,” she said. “There weren’t enough juvenile cases, so the program was being under-utilized.”

    In the four years Juvenile Drug Court was available, 40 participants signed up. Of those 40 participants, 18 graduated, Lelis said.

    Judge Clyde Wolfe was the presiding judge over the Juvenile Drug Court program.

    “You can’t spend money on a program that has only a couple of individuals,” he said.

    Juvenile Drug Court is national program that gives offenders ages 13 to 17 who face drug-related and substance abuse charges a chance for rehabilitation without incarceration for a chance to become law-abiding adults. If a participant successfully completes all the stages of the voluntary program, charges can be dropped, and that person would no longer have a criminal record.

    “The focus of law in juvenile court is rehabilitation,” Wolfe said. “This is different from adult court, where sentencing and punishment are the main objectives.”