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Juvenile program shows right path

Anyone who thinks the old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is out of date should talk to the folks involved in the Denton County Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Impact Program.

The program, which educates first-time juvenile offenders and at-risk youth of Denton County about the consequences of illegal behavior, was recently chosen as the 2012 Program of the Year at the 102nd annual convention of the International Association for Truancy and Dropout Prevention.

Deputies Penny Campbell and Charley Smith currently run the program for male and female participants and accepted the award on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office.

The program consists of a one-time, four-hour class for juveniles and their parents designed to acquaint participants with the criminal justice system. There is instruction about prison, and incarcerated juvenile offenders tell their stories. Parents are taught new techniques to deal with their children’s behavior and provided with additional resources.

The purpose is deter young offenders from continuing down the wrong road, and as Sheriff Benny Parkey stated recently in a news release about the program, preventing offenders from coming into the criminal justice system is a lot easier than correcting the behavior once it occurs.

The program began in 1998 and was completely redesigned and expanded by Deputy Amanda Allen beginning in 2005. She developed a version for schools, “Wake Up Call,” which is currently taught in every junior high and high school where the Student Training and Youth Substance Abuse Fighter Education (STAY SAFE) program is taught.

Most of the youngsters involved are in the program by court order, but some parents request that their children participate. The program is provided free of charge. For more information, call Deputy Penny Campbell at 940-349-1549 or Deputy Charley Smith at 940-349-1651 or visit

The program has drawn attention from agencies as close as McKinney and Burleson and as far away as New Hampshire, officials told us, and we’re betting that the program of the year honor will draw even more attention from those who want to develop a similar program in their jurisdictions.

We join Sheriff Parkey in congratulating Allen, Campbell and Smith for making the Denton County program a model for other agencies, and we agree that the program should continue to provide a positive influence for years to come.

We especially like the program’s requirement that parents must participate. As Smith told us, structure and good parents are key ingredients in helping keep kids on the right path, and programs like this one can help provide some backbone where needed.

Getting a close look at what life in jail is really like may be all it takes to convince young people that it’s not the place for them, and seeing a child standing on the threshold of such a life can spur parents to action.

Small choices can lead to big consequences, and thanks to the Juvenile Impact Program, young offenders have an opportunity to learn this lesson before it’s too late.