Judge makes presentation

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Justice was the topic of this week’s recognition of County Government Month. Juvenile Court Judge Mark Costine spoke to commissioners about his office and its efforts in reaching out to youth at risk.

He pointed out the essential differences between dealing with juvenile and adult offenders, and the necessary focus on rehabilitation. For many years, standard probation has been utilized by the department. The court system had employed five probation officers but is now at four.

“They on a daily basis are in the schools, the homes, and monitor the young people that they have on their caseload,” he said.

He added that Belmont is a small county and lacking resources in issues such as transportation. He said one issue has been the need to utilize various funding sources to finance local programs.

One program is the Concentrated Conduct Adjustment Program (CCAP), operated out of the Bellaire High School basement for probationary juveniles. It is affiliated with an alternative school so juveniles may continue their education during a period of suspension from school. Monitoring and transportation is provided.

The program is in operation Saturdays as well, and the students work on community service programs as well. The program is open four days per week during summer.

Around 1998 the juvenile drug court program received two grants totaling $200,000 for four years. The program has been maintained since, using various funding services.

“It’s a very intense program focusing on drugs and alcohol abuse for young kids,” he said, adding that juveniles ages 13 through 17 have been through the program.

Costine added that his department also works with youth in need of less intense help, who go through the Substance Abuse Intervention Docket (SAID) or Intensive Substance Probation (ISP). Three staff members are dedicated to those three programs.

The Department of Youth Services provides funding through grants and reclaiming.

They also work with children services dealing with parents who are addicted to drugs and who have children. Circumstances range from a hazardous environment to cases where a child is born addicted to drugs and must be placed in a foster home.

Family Dependency Treatment Court attempts to deal with the parents’ drug and alcohol issues in cases where a return to the home is possible. Another operation is the Intake and Diversion Program funded through the local general fund was initiated about 10 years ago to monitor low-level offenders who may have the offense removed from their record by completing the program. About 250 cases are handled annually.

More recently, a grant from the federal level has allowed the court to hire 1.5 truancy officers to work in the seven school districts. They see about 1,000 truancy cases yearly. The grant has run out, but funding is in place through the Educational Service Center and should take effect July.

Costine added that all of their programs include drug and alcohol screenings. The probation staff for the top three programs conducted 300 drug tests through March, with 15 percent failing the test.

Also, Costine said the court has reduced instances of incarceration by instead making use of GPS ankle bracelets in home detention. Cost of daily incarceration is $80 to $100.

In addition, the use of video court has proven to cut transportation costs. In recent years, the court has also eliminated about five staff by replacing clerk and processing positions with technology.

Other preventative outreach measures include Carteens and a mock court system for younger school children.

Commissioner Ginny Favede complimented Costine on his continuous efforts to obtain grant funding for the programs utilized by his court.

DeFrank can be reached at rdefrank@timesleaderonline.com