By Sarah Hogsed
Register News Writer
Leslie Hall already had a full workload as a court-designated worker in the Madison County juvenile court system, but when she was asked to coordinate a newly created substance abuse program, she didn’t hesitate to say yes.
“She said, ‘I will work my heart out,’” Judge Earl Ray Neal said Wednesday at an award ceremony honoring Hall. “I will tell you that you have.”
Neal told the audience at the Madison Hall of Justice that local court and law enforcement officials created the county’s Juvenile Substance Abuse Program after funding was cut statewide for Teen Drug Court.
“We felt it left a tremendous gap in our juvenile justice program,” Neal said about the program, which helps teens overcome drug addictions through support, education and accountability.
Hall received the Court-Designated Worker of the Year award for this region. Only seven of these awards are given out annually, and the winners are selected by their peers in the court system.
After she received her plaque, Neal asked audience members if they wanted to say something about how Hall or the JSAP program has affected their lives.
A woman spoke up, stating she had a “long history” of dealing with substance abuse problems in her family. But once her son was in JSAP, “for once I felt like I had someone on my side, a team.”
“I have a whole different son now. I couldn’t say thank you enough to this program for this,” the mother said.
Hall was honored with a reception after the ceremony and also a big hug from her young daughter.
“It’s nice to see your work recognized,” Hall said.
Hall has been worked as a CDW in Madison County since 2009. She is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University with a degree in psychology.
What is a court-designated worker?
Court-designated workers, or CDWs, are assigned to the cases of individuals under age 18 who are referred to the criminal justice system for public or status offenses. Status offenses are noncriminal forms of juvenile behavior, such as running away from home, skipping class, tobacco offenses or exhibiting beyond-control behaviors at home or at school. Public offenses are the same as adult crimes.
State law allows some juvenile complaints to be processed outside of court through the CDW program. Cases involving serious offenses and repeat offenders are heard by a judge.
The cases of juveniles who have committed minor offenses may be resolved with a diversion agreement.
A court-designated worker and a young offender negotiate a diversion agreement during a formal conference that parents are requested to attend. The agreements consist of conditions that relate to the alleged offense and often include one or more of the following: restitution, community service, curfew, counseling, educational seminar attendance and drug/alcohol assessments.
The diversion process is designed to educate, instill a sense of accountability and deter young people from getting into further trouble. CDWs monitor diversion agreements, which may last up to six months, to ensure that the juveniles comply with the conditions. If a juvenile successfully completes the agreement, the case is dismissed. If a juvenile fails to comply with the conditions of the diversion agreement, the case will be set for formal proceedings.
– Information provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts, www.http://courts.ky.gov/aoc/familyjuvenile/Pages/CDW.aspx