How Las Vegas’ YO Court Judge Tries to Save Young Drug Users


They smoked, snorted, and injected their way into Judge Cedric Kerns’ courtroom in Las Vegas Municipal Court. The defendants, ages 18 to 24, are struggling addicts, lucky to be alive considering the heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, and prescription medication that once pumped through their veins, says the Las Vegas Review-Journal. For some, standing in front of the judge is the longest they’ve been sober – most have failed every other recovery program the system offers. And they will likely stumble again.

Many arrive in the affectionately nicknamed “YO Court” after failing to pay their traffic fines because they chose to buy drugs instead. The two-year program requires defendants and their families to participate in the recovery process. Two years later, the drug rehabilitation program has expanded, taking on more defendants, offering more resources and requiring a larger budget. When Kerns sees that in the first six months of 2012, 41 people between 18 and 30 died from drug overdoses, he has no choice but to continue his work. The judge estimates the program stops his offenders from using $1 million of drugs per year and saves taxpayers about $1.8 million in jail costs.

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