Sep 29, 2013

Juvenile problems typically family based, not drugs

BY BOB ROBINSON
ASSOC. EDITOR
GREENVILLE – “My approach? If you’re not making money, you might as well be sitting in jail.”

Darke County Juvenile Probation Judge Jason Aslinger made it clear he’s tough on making sure parents pay their required child support.

“This often upsets mothers,” he told Darke County Republican Men’s Club members and guests Sept. 21. He spoke at the club’s regular monthly meeting at the Brethren Retirement Community. “Unmarried men and women have children. The mothers apply for benefits. They don’t want the dads involved… they want a free ride.

“That’s not going to happen.”

Every Wednesday – the full day with hearings every 15 minutes – is spent establishing child support or holding contempt hearings (not paying support). But there is more involved in dealing with children who come from broken homes, Aslinger noted.

“The vast majority of our kids (delinquency problems) come from these homes,” he said, adding that a significant percentage are repeat offenders.

“We had a boy yesterday on his 10th probation violation.”

Aslinger said before he became a judge he often dealt with child custody or support cases.

“A lot of the kids are those of parents I’ve defended. It’s a sad correlation.”

Aslinger noted there was no formal tracking of what happens when a child leaves the juvenile system at 18, but added his probation officers often look at the jail to keep a pulse on what’s going on.

“When we have kids turn 18 we know at some point we’ll see them on the jail roster.”

Acknowledging many adult offenders have a drug abuse background at some point, Aslinger said surprisingly drugs are seldom an issue with juvenile offenders.

“Family problems are a much bigger issue,” he said. “We catch them with marijuana all the time; serious drugs almost never.

“I’m not sure why,” he added. “We do drug testing. It’s not there. I’m still trying to figure out why.”

Aslinger noted a major difference between dealing with adults in the Common Pleas Court and his juveniles…

“The judge will issue a sentence (probation or prison) and the offender is out of their hair. It’s more complicated for a juvenile judge.” The kids remain the responsibility of the court.

The most preferred option, according to Aslinger, is community service.

“We implement community service a lot,” he said. If a child is not likely to come back; if he or she does community service; and if there are no problems for three months, the charge is dismissed.

“I had an idea that we’re going to put into effect. We have a county maintenance guy mowing our lawn now. We’re going to buy a narrow push mower… just the blades… our grass is going to be golf course perfect in the future.”

Aslinger also noted that actions of the juvenile court are public record. It’s to the juvenile’s advantage to have charges dropped.

There are four places where delinquent juveniles can be sent.

One of them is Michael’s Home. It will hold up to 10 boys and it’s a complete program that can take anywhere from four to 12 months. It’s staffed 24 hours a day and funded through the Commissioners’ Office and where available, Medicaid.

Another is West Central Juvenile Detention in Troy.

“They sell a bed for $35,000 a year. We have five. That’s 150 bed days per month. Toward the end of the month we look at the beds. If someone needs in the program we check to see who we may be able to let out early.”

A third option is West Central Rehabilitation, also in Troy. Aslinger noted they have a tremendous sex offender program and that the majority of kids sent there come back successful.

The last option is prison for juveniles (The Department of Youth Services). They have 500 kids… “the worst of the worst,” Aslinger said. “Mostly gangbangers.”

“Are we going to send a Darke County kid into this den of bad kids, after which they’ll come back to us? We really think twice about it.” He added there is one about to be released… “We’re concerned.”

“Darke County is great. We’re conservative. We have good morals. My job is to keep it that way.”

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