Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Another Shot at Life

Two Lima teens arrested for felony offenses are finding they get more than one shot in life. They’re getting a second chance with the help of a program designed to change personal attitudes and correct the behaviors that put them behind bars.

“I think it’s helping me. I really do,” Alexis Copeland said.

Copeland entered the Treatment Program, located at the Walter J. Roush Rehabilitation Center in Lima, in January after she was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Copeland didn’t have a good relationship with her family and wasn’t living with them at the time of her arrest. When she went before Allen County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Derryberry, he gave her the option of attending the court’s Treatment Program instead of heading to a juvenile detention facility.

“We try to be fairly selective and make sure we are picking someone to be in the program that’s going to benefit and take advantage of it,” Judge Derryberry said.

The Treatment Program is comprised of prevention and treatment specialists who include teachers, a probation officer, a counselor, and team leaders. They provide therapeutic and academic help through four phases of intervention.

“We are changing lives by operating this kind of a program. We’re not throwing kids away,” Judge Derryberry said.

The rehabilitation center can house 11 teens, though up to 20 kids can be in the program at any given time. The teens are in for felony-level offenses including burglary, robbery, and assault, though Judge Derryberry said most are in for property crimes.

The judge took over the program in 2007. He said he wasn’t satisfied with the program’s prior effectiveness and changed its design over the next five years. He hired on a PhD-trained clinical director full time to work with the teens in a more therapeutic way.

It typically takes the young adults 11 months to complete the four phases of the Treatment Program.

Phase 1: Orientation
Phase 2: Intervention
Phase 3: Community Reintegration
Phase 4: Supervised Reentry

Phase 1: Orientation
Phase 2: Intervention
Phase 3: Community Reintegration
Phase 4: Supervised Reentry

For about six months, the 14 to 21 year olds are housed separately inside a secure room. They set goals with specialists through a case development plan and learn about proper hygiene. They also attend counseling sessions with the clinical director, both one-on-one and with their families, and they go to school and attend group activities with other teens in the program.  Then the teens usually integrate back into society by taking out home passes that start at eight hours and extend to weekend passes and even longer.

“We believe that kids can change. We believe that families can change, and that’s what we are trying to do here,” Judge Derryberry said.

“Before I had a bad anger problem – I didn’t really care about nobody else. It was like when I was out there, I let people run me. I was weak minded,” Copeland said. “And now I feel like treatment has helped me become a stronger person. I’m able to make my own decisions.”

Fifteen-year-old Jakob Stebleton is in phase four of the program. He first entered the program after he was convicted of receiving stolen property.

“I look at situations differently,” Stebleton said. “I used to have a big anger issue and everything before I entered this program and had attitude, and, you know, I could do it on my own and everything, and now I just don’t let things get to me and realize that some things aren’t as important.”

By the time the kids graduate from the program, and are on probation if needed, the teens will have received more than 200 hours of intervention through counseling and meetings with the treatment specialists.

“We’re really trying to change their thinking, and we have an equation up on the wall – thoughts plus feelings plus behavior equals consequences,” Clinical Director Tom Hull said. “We’re focusing on the thinking, and once we can delve into that I think we help many of them.”

Hull said he sees the most success when the teen’s family is involved and committed.

“We believe that family counseling is the main tool of change, and so we put a lot of emphasis on the family unit,” Hull said.

Christine Hoff is the treatment services director. She supervises the staff and overseas the program.

“We’ve got a great team,” Hoff said. “Every day we’re talking about the kids and what’s going on with them and issues that come up in the center and things that are going on in family counseling.”

The team helps each kid daily before release to identify their goals and find out how to succeed once they are out on their own.

“They want to finish school,” Hoff said. “They want to get a job someday. They want to have a paycheck. Sometimes they don’t know how to go about doing it, and I think we do a good job of teaching them a lot of skills to get to that point, and then we have the luxury of watching them in that process and actually get to do it and live it out.”

So far nearly 50 teens have completed the program. Stebleton and Copeland plan to add to that growing list of graduates.

“It makes me have a different outlook on life,” Copeland said.