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Juvenile court aims at rehabilitation

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POSTED: December 20, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Photo by Lauren Hunsberger/

Vickie Cook brought Linnie Darden III, juvenile court judge, to speak to Rotarians about both juvenile delinquency and child abuse in Liberty County.

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Being a juvenile court judge is often tough and emotional but necessary for the betterment of the community, Linnie Darden told the Liberty County Rotary Club on Tuesday.
Darden, a member of the Hinesville law firm of Jones, Osteen and Jones, deals with two types of cases on a regular basis: abuse and neglect, and child delinquency. Child delinquency cases primarily deal with minors who break the law. In order to give youth the best possible detention decision for their well-being and the well-being of the community, he examines a juvenile’s delinquency history.
Darden said he tries to make judicial decisions with a youth’s best interest in mind, rather than blindly detaining each offender. His goal? Preventing children from becoming perpetual criminals.
“It’s a system designed to rehabilitate,” Darden said. “We try to change a child’s perspective, so that the child doesn’t remain in the system.”
Unless the child has committed one of what Darden called the “seven deadly sins” such as aggravated child molestation, murder and rape, which automatically causes them to be tried as an adult, he attempts to rehabilitate the children with a 60-day program.
He has a list of alternatives designed to benefit youth and encourage progress in their thinking and behavior. They include housebound detention, high-intensity team supervision, conditional home release, electronic monitoring and behavior aids.
Darden, however, takes his attempt to help and rehabilitate children a step further. During his presentation Tuesday, he suggested many things that can be done to prevent a child from ever having to face a judge. Among them are mentoring and outreach programs.
“We need to do more mentoring, so they don’t become adult criminals,” said Darden, who fears for some children because they have grown up in a household where “delinquency is an accepted practice.”
Darden also deals with many abuse and neglect cases, which he said are tried in “crying court” because of the emotional impact of seeing children endangered by their own families.
“You’d be surprised and shocked at the number of children in the county that don’t have the basic necessities to a home,” Darden said. “Cases can range from drug abuse, to physical abuse, to neglect, and they’re going on everyday in Liberty County.”
The judge said his solution to this problem is to educate parents. His goal is to try to keep children with their biological parents, but if they’re abusive in any way, he’ll remove them from the home and find a more appropriate one, a complicated process.
“We have plenty of homes that are fit but not willing, and many homes that are willing and not fit. They’ve got to be both fit and willing,” Darden said.
Rotarian Vickie Cook, who works for Darden and asked him to speak to the group, said one way in which the community can help with abuse and neglect cases is to volunteer as a member of a citizen review panel. The group’s primary responsibility is to review cases of children placed into foster care through the court.
 

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