Newton County's Juvenile Court and Sheriff's Office continued to pursue programs to help troubled youth and adults turn their lives around this week.
The Newton County Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday a contract not to exceed $7,886 with resident Melissa Tice to teach life skills courses to jail inmates who are serving terms of six months or longer in an effort to help them avoid returning to jail. The program will be paid through 2011 State Criminal Alien Assistance Program monies.
Sheriff Ezell Brown said the eight-week program will include courses in areas like denial and justification and will also include a self-study component where inmates interact with fellow inmates.
He said participants will be eligible to participate in a sheriff's office program where inmates can earn two or three days toward their sentence for every one day they serve. Brown said 15 men and 20 women have graduated from the program so far.
The program will also study whether participants are arrested again.
"Melissa Tice is a local, young lady, someone I've known for a long time. She has a great family background. As a matter of fact she is working on her doctorate," Brown said. "We have highly trained individuals who are willing to give their time and energy to see lives changed."
Brown said an outside source would charge more, and he said preventing even one person from coming back to jail could save the county as much as $500,000.
The Board of Commissioners also voted to allow Juvenile Judge Sherri Roberts to submit two grant applications.
A $75,000 grant from the Governor's Office for Children and Families would allow the county to enroll more youth in the court's drug counseling and intervention program.
Roberts said the county is at an all time high in the number of youth appearing before the drug court, and the court only receives $10,000 in annual state funding. The program can hold 22-25 children at any one time and the program lasts for a year. Roberts said there are 1,800-1,900 drug cases every year. The grant would increase the flexibility of the drug program and give families more options.
The program costs families $340 a year.
The court will also seek technical assistance from the Robert Kennedy Children's Action Corps to participate in a national research program that seeks to reform juvenile justice systems. The program would identify the best practices to reduce the number of children who are deprived and delinquent.
Roberts said only four sites in the U.S. would likely be picked, and the program would bring recognition to Newton County.