Youth Court works for adult success stories

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PICAYUNE, Miss. (AP) - Pearl River County Court Judge Richelle Lumpkin wears many hats to fulfill her judicial responsibilities.

One such responsibility is being the head of Youth Court for the county. Lumpkin is aware of the cycle that children can fall into. A cycle of repeating bad choices through affiliations and substance abuse can lead them into a life of entanglement with the judicial system.

Lumpkin knows from her years of experience that some juvenile offenders cannot be reached. But there are those who can and she believes in seeking solutions to challenges.

“There are success stories,” she said. “I have had juvenile offenders come through my court as teenagers and return as adults to thank me for not giving up. There are so many that you can see the potential in them to do so much better. The joys are great but so is the pain when they turn back to drugs and give up on themselves.”

Pearl River County ranks 8th of 82 counties in the filing of cases with the Department of Youth Services and the Department of Human Services.

Lumpkin said the county needs additional resources, such as counselors, to meet with these children on a daily or weekly basis.

Not one to dwell on the negatives, Lumpkin has worked to find and has acquired grants for programs that help adolescent offenders.

One of the grant-funded programs is the Mental Health Intensive Adolescent Opportunity Program (AOP). Day treatment services are directed toward assisting youth and their families to master the skills necessary to live successfully and work in the community by offering a wide range of therapeutic activities.

The program allows children placed on probation to meet with counselors on a daily basis. The children get picked up if they do not have transportation for their daily meetings, receive tutoring with homework and receive counseling.

“They get a daily dose of positive influence,” Lumpkin said. “They get to discuss any problems they are having immediately. This makes a big difference.

“We have found that if they are successful in school and graduate, they can go on to further their education through either technical or academic programs and become less likely to reoffend.”

She said it is too early to provide the results of the program, which began in October, but believes it will be a success.

Another grant-funded program is AEM. This grant pays for electronic monitoring through a grant.

“This allows us to place the children on monitoring - basically house arrest. It is conducive to the child staying in home and continuing education,” Lumpkin said.

This allows the children to receive the structure of their home environment and includes GPS monitoring. It monitors zones where a child should not be.

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