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How the juvenile justice system aims to support addicted teens

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2024 | Juvenile

Most parents are likely aware that most teenage offenders are not treated the same as adult criminal offenders. This can be a source of relief for parents who, for example, discover that their teenager is experimenting with substances. Due to their teens’ newfound freedom, parents can only do so much to help prevent this experimentation from crossing the line into addiction.

It can be disheartening to watch helplessly as one’s child struggles with addiction. As can receiving the news that one’s child has been arrested for drug possession. In these instances, the juvenile justice system faces a complex dilemma: address the crime or treat the underlying issue? Fortunately, the system is evolving to recognize addiction as a treatable disease, not a criminal act.

Diversion programs

Initially, teenagers entangled in the traditional juvenile system faced detention or probation. However, teenage offenders now have the option of going through diversion programs. As the name suggests, this different approach diverts qualified teenage offenders away from the formal court system. Instead, they’re directed into treatment programs to help them overcome substance use disorders.

Instead of subjecting all teenage offenders to blanket consequences, diversion programs help ensure qualified offenders face appropriate consequences for their actions while they focus on recovery. A teenager can be diverted into a program that assesses and diagnoses the acuteness of their drug dependence. Here, they can receive a tailored treatment to help them overcome addiction.

Community service is another significant facet of teenage rehabilitation. This provides teens with an opportunity to give back while reinforcing positive behavior. Community service may be accompanied by educational classes that focus on:

  • Drug abuse prevention
  • Life skills development
  • Relapse prevention

Other teenagers qualify for individual or group therapy where they can understand their inclinations toward substance abuse. This way, teenagers can learn personalized coping mechanisms to keep them out of trouble. Each diversion program can help ensure that troubled teenagers receive the help they need, the justice system is relieved of some burden and communities are safer with fewer repeat offenders.

Parents whose teenagers have been caught with drugs can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that diversion programs prioritize rehabilitation and offer a pathway to recovery. That said, they can also benefit from legal guidance to help ensure the best possible outcome for their kids, as no outcome to a criminal scenario is ever guaranteed.