Established in 1995, the Hawaii Drug Court program was created to provide options outside of the criminal justice system to first-time, non-violent drug offenders. While the program has successfully helped many drug offenders, it did not address the special needs of youthful offenders. In an effort to provide a greater chance for errant children to move toward bright futures, the Juvenile Drug Courts (JDC), established in 2001, address many concerns, including:
- Delays in treatment due to overloaded drug court dockets
- Youth-specific concerns such as truancy, gang involvement, family conflicts and other issues
- Family court issues caused by more than 5,000 adolescents on probation
- Prison overcrowding and associated expenses
Under the JDC, children receive holistic treatment for their special issues. According to a report issued by the University of Hawaii College Of Social Sciences Public Policy Center, the program relies on support from many professionals, including judges, probation officers and treatment providers. The program also involves parents or guardians. In fact, family members typically undergo family therapy while refraining from the use of drugs or alcohol within their homes. Although the report was issued relatively early in the program, it showed a potential retention rate between 65 and 85 percent, with recidivism rate as low as 16 percent after completing the first year of the program. While the relapse rate increases to 27 percent after the second year, it remains much lower than the rate for incarcerated individuals.
After their first offence, many children will go on to avoid a life of drug addiction or other criminal behavior with the proper program. However, without the support of a criminal defense attorney who has specific experience in drug offenses and juvenile law, children can face harsh futures. A skilled lawyer looks at all aspects of the criminal charges and the circumstances of children to help them qualify for all programs available to them.