Lane Tax Critical for Juvenile Justice

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Craig Opperman and Lisa Smith For The Register-Guard

When Kevin was 5, his father went to prison for assaulting his mother. His mother struggled with methamphetamine addiction.

At 13, Kevin began hanging out with people who skipped school and experimented with substances. Kevin told himself he would never use drugs, but at 14, he tried them, too. At 15, he was arrested for possession of meth and placed in Lane County detention.

At 10, Jessica lost her older brother to a gun accident. Her parents were unable to cope and were numb to Jessica's needs. At 16, Jessica began fighting at school. She felt angry all the time. She stopped caring about school, friends or family.

After several suspensions, Jessica was expelled. She found herself in juvenile court on assault charges.

Kevin's and Jessica's stories continue. Services are brought to bear that can effectively meet their needs while keeping the community safe.

Kevin is held in detention. He detoxes from meth, engages in school, becomes involved in skill-building classes and begins to think positively about life. When the judge places him at the Looking Glass Pathways residential drug treatment program, he is motivated to make a change.

He and his mother begin therapy to address the trauma of domestic violence. Kevin completes drug treatment, including one year of after-care, performs 80 hours of community service, continues his education and becomes involved in a vocational program. He obtains an internship as a veterinary technician, landing a job in a local clinic.

Jessica is ordered to the Martin Luther King Jr. Education Center at the Juvenile Justice Center to work on her high school equivalency degree. She attends anger management classes. Her family engages in grief and loss counseling.

Jessica earns restitution to pay her victim for medical expenses. She begins an internship in the culinary arts program. Jessica obtains her degree and enrolls at Lane Community College.

Unfortunately, these stories have another potential ending.

Kevin is matrixed out of detention. He begins using meth again. He misses his next court date. A warrant is issued. He is later arrested for stealing guns to trade for drugs. The guns enter in the community.

There is no residential drug treatment, so a judge commits Kevin to the state system. He is paroled after six months due to overcrowding, still without having obtained treatment. Kevin returns in the community, untreated, with no additional skills. …