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Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
August 4, 2009 Edition Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel

Evidencing low truancy rates and the true commitment that Decatur Rotarians have to our Club and to lending support to one of our own, there was robust turnout on a stormy Friday afternoon for this past week's meeting. As you will read, the program was homespun but uniquely insightful. I trust you will enjoy reading this week's Spoke 'n Wheel.

Brian Cayce

In this Issue
Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
  • President Bryan Presiding
  • Juvenile Justice in DeKalb County, Judge Desiree Sutton Peagler
  • Around the Room
  • August Birthdays

  • President Bryan Presiding
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel

    President Bryan enjoyed his lunch with Scott Drake and expressed appreciation for those who battled the storms to make the meeting. Richard Puckett was called to give our invocation.

    Juvenile Justice in DeKalb County, Judge Desiree Sutton Peagler
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
    Judges Adams and Peagler

    Judge Gregory Adams shares a moment with his long-time friend, acquaintance and our speaker Judge Desiree Sutton Peagler

    Judge Gregory Adams introduced our speaker and fellow Decatur Rotarian, Judge Desiree Sutton Peagler, noting that Judge Peagler has been achievement-oriented all of her life, so it's not surprising that her dedication to juvenile justice in DeKalb County has been so successful.

    Desiree was the first African-American Valedictorian of her high school, where she also excelled in band, basketball and student government. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Troy University, and she received her Law Degree from Emory University, where she was also active in student government and similar extracurricular activities. After her graduation, she joined a private law firm and practiced criminal and civil law. In 1988, she became an Assistant District Attorney for DeKalb County, and her career steadily advanced within the County government. In 2005, she became the first African-American female to become a full-time Juvenile Court judge in DeKalb County. Judge Peagler resides in DeKalb County with her husband and three children.

    Judge Peagler began her presentation by thanking Club friends and associates who have provided support and encouragement to her throughout her career. She thanked Judges Greg Adams, C. J. Becker, Dan Coursey, Bob Castellani, and Michael Hancock, as well as former Club President, attorney Bob Wilson and former DeKalb District Attorney, J. Tom Morgan.

    Judge Peagler shared her passion for the successful elements that make DeKalb's Juvenile Court so important for the children of our community. She emphasized that the Juvenile Court operates 24 hours a day at the Gregory A. Adams Juvenile Justice Center on Memorial Drive. The Court has four full-time judges, with one always on call to help children find a safe home and to make decisions about children who find themselves on the wrong side of the law. The goals of the Court are to rehabilitate those who have broken the law, to allow children to remain in their communities, to assist children in foster care, to restore dignity to children, and to find the best way to encourage children to become productive citizens.

    The Juvenile Court has had criminal cases involving children as young as 6 years old. Except for crimes involving the "Seven Deadly Sins", the maximum incarceration in Juvenile Court is five years. The Superior Court deals with children 13 to 17 years old who have committed "Seven Deadly Sins" crimes, where they are tried as adults.

    The primary charge of the Juvenile Court is to move cases along swiftly, because time is a precious commodity when it comes to the lives of children. Juvenile cases have to be heard within 10 days of a preliminary hearing. Continuances sometimes happen, but a dispositional hearing must be held within a 30-day period. These time frames apply to both criminal and deprivation (foster care) cases.

    The majority members of the Juvenile Court staff are probation officers, who often provide parental-type guidance to their charges. The children identify with the positive interaction they experience with their probation officers, and they develop a personal responsibility to these officers.

    The Juvenile Court has a number of programs to turn children around and move them toward becoming productive citizens. The Community Service Program includes various learning components, including AIDS education where they interact with patients, Choose Freedom where inmates have frank discussions with childhood offenders, and a Toastmasters-type program that includes speech and communication classes and formal presentations.

    Truancy is an increasingly difficult problem for both schools and juvenile courts. DeKalb's Juvenile Court has formed a team of probation officers, social workers and judges to meet with children, monitor truancy offenders and provide guidance. The results have been dramatic, with significant drops in truancy, suspensions and new cases.

    The Juvenile Court also has a rebound drug program for 14 to 16 year old males with drug problems. The juveniles meet with judges and probation officers who provide a program to expose the youths to healthy educational and service-related activities. They engage in community service activities, plant gardens, go camping, and attend special events together.

    The foster care program of the Juvenile Court is instrumental in helping teenage foster care children obtain the ability to transition to adulthood. After the age of 18, foster care is no longer available to these children, so the Court sponsors classes in independent living, finances and understanding available resources for their future needs.

    Judge Peagler emphasized that community volunteers are a critical component in the Court's success. Court volunteers can serve on citizen panel reviews for foster care children, youth diversion programs for first-time offenders, and can serve as mentors to the children. She encouraged all of us to connect with young people in our community, to serve as role models and encourage young people to find meaningful and productive interests.

    During the current economic downturn, the Court has seen a slight increase in juvenile delinquencies, including an increase in female youth involvement. Thankfully, no significant change has occurred in deprivation cases, but continued economic difficulties could change this statistic. DeKalb's Juvenile Court can only track county-specific cases, since there is no database available to track area-wide statistics involving other metropolitan jurisdictions. However, Judge Peagler was pleased to report that some former offenders return to share their successes. For instance, one former offender returned to the Court to report that he had graduated from college and was ministering in a nearby church.

    Reported by Betty Spiker

    Around the Room
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
    President Bryan and Scott Drake

    President Bryan sharing the news of many 'thank you' notes from community organizations that the Decatur Rotary Club supported in the previous Rotary year.

    Judge Peagler and Susan Cobleigh

    Judge Peagler and Susan Cobleigh touch base following the program.

    August Birthdays
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel

    Please pardon our delay, as we collect the list of August birthdays for you. Check here in the coming week, and apologies to those with birthdays at the beginning of the month!

    Upcoming Programs

    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
    phone: 404-966-6211
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel
    Decatur Rotary Spoke 'n Wheel