Diversion program working to make real progress with teens - CBS46 News

Diversion program working to make real progress with teens

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

CBS46 is going in-depth as we dig deep into Georgia's juvenile justice system.

We want to investigate more than just how teens end up behind bars. We want to examine what's being done to keep young people out of jail in the first place.

Through our "Teens, Trauma and Trouble" series, we got a closer look at a diversion program that's working to make real progress.

The young men in this classroom are working hard to stay out of trouble. Some of them have committed minor crimes, from drug possession to truancy. But instead of probation or jail, they're participating in a special mentoring program.

"We want to show a presence of strong black men, caring about strong young black men, making a difference in your lives," says John Hollins with 100 Black Men of DeKalb County.

It's one of several diversion programs offered by the DeKalb County Juvenile Court

"Kids have changed their behavior in their home, their grades have improved, and also, they're self-esteem has improved," says Mitchell Burley with the DeKalb County Juvenile Court.

The 100 Black Men of DeKalb County meet at least twice a month.

"Today's society of teenagers is based on if you're popular or if you're lame," says 17-year-old Jalen Moses. "You will get jumped on, bullied, harassed all day long."

The DeKalb County Juvenile Court referred Moses to the program after he was caught with marijuana at school.

"I'd rather talk to one of the mentors, instead of my parents,' says Moses.

So mentors like Darrell Smith step in to fill that void.

"They're not bad kids, first of all. They're good kids. The thing is, they need a little structure," says Smith.

No topic is off limits, from drugs, gangs to the etiquette of manhood.

Moses says knowing some of the mentors have been though the same struggles he has is motivating. 

"They're not really mentors, they're friends, but at the same time, they're helping us be on the right track," says Moses. 

The mentoring program started in 2016 and currently enrolls between 20-30 young men. It's free and open to young men ages 12-17 who live in DeKalb County.

If you know a teen who may be interested, click here for more information.

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