West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Robin Davis has appointed Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone as the county's first ever Juvenile Drug Court judge.
Mazzone, who initiated the effort to bring juvenile drug court to Ohio County, said the concept may allow juvenile offenders to complete a drug rehabilitation treatment plan rather be incarcerated.
"Unfortunately, drug abuse by juveniles has risen," he said. "Often times, drugs play a large role in juvenile delinquency and truancy cases. Requiring juveniles, as part of my punishment imposed, to participate in and successfully complete court-supervised drug rehab programs, allows the court to hopefully address juvenile substance abuse issues before they become adult substance abuse issues."
Chief Probation Officer William Ball, who will serve as chairman of the treatment team and planning committee, said those youths recognized as suitable for participation in the Juvenile Drug Court program may be referred by a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation officer, school resource officer, police officer, school officials, parents and guardians and social workers.
In the case of pre-adjudicatory diversion of at-risk youth, the prosecutor may agree not file a juvenile petition if the juvenile and parents agree to complete the program voluntarily. Depending upon the juvenile's success or failure in the program, the original charges may be dismissed or fully prosecuted. In post-adjudicatory cases, a judge may defer sentencing or even dismiss the case in lieu of successful completion of the program.
According to Ball, the program is structured in four-phases that each participant will complete.
"According to the youths' achievement, they may finish the program in seven months," he said.