The drug court movement began with the changing of a few minds at the grassroots level. People began to realize the existing approach to the drug using criminal — incarceration — wasn’t working.

The number of accused drug offenders kept increasing and there were simply not enough jails to hold them. Drug court offers these offenders a structured program of treatment, counseling, mandatory drug testing, judicial monitoring, immediate sanctions and incentives, and overall support from the court team to help re-enter into the community as healthy, productive citizens.

Since its inception in 1994, the drug court movement has grown from the 12 original drug courts to more than 1200 throughout the country. The reason for their unprecedented growth is that they have proven that they can reduce the rate of recidivism and are by far the most effective tool in protecting society from the ravages of drug abuse.

The Will County State’s Attorney’s Office participated in a program through the United States Department of Justice to establish a Juvenile Drug Court Program. The Drug Court Team researched the increase of criminal behavior as it related to substance abuse and studied existing programs to develop a local project to best serve the needs of our community. Juvenile Drug Court helps adolescents address their problems with substance abuse using an inter-disciplinary approach encompassing all aspects of their life: family, social, medical, psychological, and academic. The Drug Court Team is committed to helping adolescents with substance abuse problems achieve their full potential.

The Case for Juvenile Drug Court

In a comprehensive analysis of the juvenile justice system, an overwhelming 80% of juveniles arrested had substance abuse problems. At present only 4% receive treatment. In another study by the Education and Justice Department, 45% of students in grades 9-12 had tried alcohol, 22% used marijuana regularly and one third had been offered illegal drugs on school grounds. Clearly, adolescents face different challenges today than in the past. It is not surprising that the juvenile crime rate is on the rise.

All adolescents hold incredible potential. Unfortunately, the use of alcohol or other drugs can keep them from ever realizing that potential. With intervention through Drug Court, these juveniles can help create a future we can all be proud of.

How It Works

Defendants referred to the program are first screened to determine if they are eligible. A background check and comprehensive assessment are performed. The type of treatment for each defendant is based on that individuals’ needs. They are referred to an appropriate level of treatment and must make monthly appearances in court. The length of the program is 12 to 18 months. During this phase the participants are also required to attend or complete high school or earn a GED. Types of treatment a client may need include drug and alcohol treatment, mandatory drug testing, anger management counseling, family and individual counseling, and behavior modification therapy.

Participants are also required to attend a group each month to help them address the problems they face every day. This family-based group deals with social interaction in the community and household, how to deal with anger issues, how to avoid trouble situations and many other topics.

Among the unique challenges to Drug Court is developing a strategy to motivate and engage adolescents to change. They often lack the “hitting the bottom” motivation or the maturity of long term abusers. Therefore strategies involve a greater focus on the family, the school and other community agencies. Immediate use of judicial sanctions applied for noncompliance and incentives to recognize progress by the juvenile and their families are crucial to the success of our program as well as the individual.

After 12 months in the program and at least 6 months clean and sober, the client graduates from the program. The original charges against them are dropped and they receive a diploma with the admiration of the Drug Court Team for their hard work in facing this difficult situation.

The criminal justice system has the unique ability to influence a person shortly after a significant triggering event such as an arrest. Statistics show that recidivism rates drop drastically when the offender is offered counseling, drug treatment, anger management counseling, conflict resolution direction, career guidance, support and close supervision.

The connections the clients make through their time in the program and required AA/NA meetings will provide them with a far reaching safety net of support if the temptation of drug and alcohol use becomes too much.

The Mission

The mission of the Will County Juvenile Drug Court is to break the cycle of addiction which drives the criminal behavior of the non-violent drug user and help them develop the skills necessary for healthy functioning within the family unit, at school, the workplace, and in society.

Who is Eligible?

Potential clients of juvenile drug court are substance abusers 17 years of age or younger involved in criminal behavior and charged with a non-violent offense. The applicant must admit to having a drug or alcohol problem and be willing to accept the treatment recommendations of the drug court team

Who’s Involved?

Representatives from the following agencies are dedicated to making this program a success:

  • Will County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Will County Probation Department
  • Will County Public Defender’s Office
  • Will County Health Department (Addiction Services)
  • Provena St. Joseph’s Medical Center (Addiction Services)

We are pleased that we also have the following sponsors in the community:

  • Joliet Elks Lodge #296
  • Joliet Park District
  • Joliet Elks
  • Waste Management

For more information regarding the Will County Drug Court, call Julie McCabe-Sterr, Drug Court Coordinator, at (815) 727-8453 or email: