Minors who are arrested for drug or alcohol abuse in Gila County face diversion or detainment.
According to Juvenile Intensive Probation Supervision (JIPS) August 2005 statistics, Gila County had 29 active probation cases, compared to Maricopa's 551 and the state total of 1,427.
The drug and alcohol problem in Payson is not bad compared to other counties said Hellen Carter, chief probation officer of Gila County.
Of the 15 Arizona counties, Gila is fifth or sixth from the bottom, according to July and August 2005 statistics.
"Drugs and alcohol have historically been a problem in Payson and Globe. That is why we created the drug court for both adults and juveniles.
The drug court was reinstated in Payson a year ago and Carter is pleased with its success.
Minors who are charged with drug possession are assessed to determine if they are: acting stupid and were caught for the first time; a kid who is using drugs, but it has not escalated into a problem; habitual users; already addicted.
"We have a therapist that actually does some intensive work to make these assessments," Carter said.
Shannon Spellman is the independent counselor, certified by the Supreme Court, who makes the assessments. Drug and alcohol abuse are her specialties.
"She is phenomenal in working with drug addicted youth," said Carter.
If the minor has a clinical diagnosis of depression, or some other factor contributing to their drug use, then the child is referred to Rim Guidance and probation work is done in co-therapeutic fashion.
"If it is a first-time drug offense, the county attorney has allowed us to use Drug Diversion, a 16- week, very specialized intensive program for that child.
"If the child is successful, that means urinalysis is clean and they don't get re-arrested for anything, at that point that complaint will be adjusted," Carter said.
However, according to Carter, if the child is found to have a more serious problem with drugs or alcohol, is addicted or fails an UA while in diversion, then they go to court and if the county attorney approves, that juvenile delinquent is placed into an intensive drug court program, which lasts from nine months to a year.
The child will meet with the judge every other week, meet with the therapist, is UA tested three or four times a week, and if successful they will be given probation.
"Most (teens who use drugs) are active drug users because they like the effect of the chemical or their peers are doing it," Carter said.
"If 16- and 17-year-olds can't go out and find employment and they are not in school, but just hanging out, you have kids that are either doing nothing or usually using drugs and getting into trouble."
So how does the program intervene and work to break the cycle of addiction?
Teens are detained in a secure holding facility in Globe for juveniles 17 and under, where they are able to continue their education while they are being counseled.
Children learning within the facility are on a quarterly school schedule. When they leave detention, Carter said the judge often mandates they return to school and often they can't get credit for the class time in the detention facility. That's why she likes the schools that are certified through Gila County Superintendent Linda O'Dell.
The courts also use what is called home detention, Carter said. If a judge determines a juvenile is not a threat to the community, that child can be placed under house arrest. The detention officer comes to the child's home or calls at least once a day to make sure he/she is at home. The child can leave home only with a parent.
Carter said the program has "multi-system team meetings" where the probation officer and the therapist discuss the children in the program, "so we are not making decisions in a vacuum."
Bracelets and probation
Bracelets are other methods in use for reinforcing compliance to probation.
"What I am trying to bring in is the electronic monitoring," she said.
This would be an ankle or wrist bracelet providing passive monitoring: when a person walks away from their home the bracelet will activate an alarm, the alarm company will contact the probation department, then the probation department will try to go out and locate the individual.
There is about a two-hour lead time.
"Active units are good, particularly if you have an adjudicated sex offender or somebody who is marginal -- they haven't shown themselves to be a threat to the community, but they have the potential to be, for instance someone with assaultive behavior or active monitoring: global positioning satellite (GPS).
"Passive units are about $3.50 per day. Active units are $12.50 per day," Carter said.
The program can also employ an electronic monitoring bracelet that monitors for alcohol in the system.
Typically what happens is when someone who is a dope smoker or a meth user goes through drug court they switch to alcohol because it passes so quickly though the body, Carter said.
"It's a bracelet that even if they take one drink it will register from their skin."
Top 10 Juvenile Offenses in 85541 zip code
From July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005
53 Traffic offense/moving violation, nonfelony
48 Alcohol under-age consumption
32 Incorrigible, refuse to obey parent/guardian
29 Disorderly conduct
26 Truancy, habitually from school
19 Marijuana possession, less than two pounds
17 Assault-simple with intent to cause injury
17 Probation violation
15 Runaway within county
13 Shoplifting, less than or equal to $250
Data provided by Gila County