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Durham Drug Court Offers Teens A Second Chance

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DURHAM — Teenagers who get caught using drugs learn a very grown-up lesson when they have to go before a judge, but a program in Durham County puts the focus on recovery instead of jail.

It is not something you usually hear in a courtroom, but in the Juvenile Youth Treatment Court, applause is the sound of accomplishment for another kid who is clean and sober.

"Tell me about your week," Judge Marcia Morey asks one youth.

The offenders in this courtroom are only 12-17 years old and they are already substance abusers.

"Those drug tests don't lie," the judge admonishes one youngster.

Most of the kids did not want us to show their faces, and neither did their parents. Many of them are also drug abusers.

"A lot of these kids have problems adults can't even imagine," Morey says.

As for the kids, they are required to take a weekly drug test, and Morey challenges them to stay clean.

"You have got two weeks to go, you've done a lot well, don't trip now, OK?" Morey counsels another youth.

The judge meets with members of the district attorney's office and court counselors before drug court actually starts. This way, they can look at each individual case and track the teen's progress.

"We've had children come in using two and three years, and now they have 150 days clean," says Court Coordinator Maria Lewis.

The program is not just directed at the offender; the parents are also held accountable.

"It's your responsibility to communicate with people trying to help your son," Morey tells one in court.

For the kids who are able to stay out of trouble, each is given a gift certificate.

"Congratulations. We're proud of you," Morey tells one young man, shaking his hand.

And while many of them may slip, in this court, even the smallest accomplishment is something to celebrate.


Julia Lewis, Reporter
Don Ingle, Photographer
Julian King, Web Editor

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