Pictured is the group that keeps the Youth Drug Court in Neshoba County going. The volunteers pictured during a recent graduation are, front row from left:  Ayana Whitlock, Amy Taylor, Mandy Webb; second row from left, guest speaker Philip Prince, Caleb May, Wesley Hazelwood, Jacob Starks and Heidi Starks.
Pictured is the group that keeps the Youth Drug Court in Neshoba County going. The volunteers pictured during a recent graduation are, front row from left: Ayana Whitlock, Amy Taylor, Mandy Webb; second row from left, guest speaker Philip Prince, Caleb May, Wesley Hazelwood, Jacob Starks and Heidi Starks.
Philadelphia businessman Justin Peyton believes in the mission of the Youth Drug Court and its ability to change lives.

Peyton, the owner of Soundwave 357 Audio, serves as a mentor in the program. He has spoken at the meetings and gets to know the participants.

“I never meet a stranger,” Peyton said. “I talk to the kids and get to know them.

“You can see that the program works. The first time I spoke, there was a kid there who was in trouble. They were working with him. The next time I spoke, he was finishing the program. He had turned his life around,” Peyton said.

Peyton brings the kids into his shop where he shows them how to install headlights and speakers. He teaches them to learn a trade in his store located at 1207 East Myrtle Street.

“I have been a fan of the Youth Drug Court for a long time,” Peyton said. “I went through Adult Drug Court during a troubled time in my life and I saw what the program did for me. I was happy when they started the Youth Drug Court.”

Peyton said the turning point in his life came when he learned he had a five-year-old child.

“I wanted to be there for him so I worked hard to turn things around,” Peyton said. “I had worked installing speakers and knew how to do it. So I worked hard and started my own business.”

There are 16 people in the program right now, Youth Drug Court Director Wesley Hazelwood said. Seven have finished the program this year and four are close to finishing.

“One is graduating from the Youth Challenge program at Camp Shelby,” Hazelwood said. “After that, he has signed to join the U.S. Marines. Two more are leaving for the Youth Challenge in January. Another one is graduating from the Drug Court program in February.

“It has been a long road. But once they get parent participation and community participation, it helps show them there is another quality way of life then what they are accustomed to seeing.”

The program is under the 6th Chancery Court District covers Neshoba, Kemper, Attala, Carroll, Winston and Choctaw counties. The youth drug court is available in all of those counties but right now Neshoba County is where it is most active.



The program is strictly voluntary. If the young person makes it through, all charges are expunged. If they drop out, they are back in court.

Hazelwood said it takes help from the community and interested people like Peyton to make the program a success.

“We want to thank everyone who helps us,” Hazelwood said. “They really like Justin Peyton. He teaches them all of that audio stuff and they like that.”

Hazelwood also thanked Heidi Starks and Mandy Webb for their counseling work with participants.

He said that Old Mexico and Sonic have given gift cards to the program to be used as incentives to reach their goals that we set each month.

“The kids like that,” Hazelwood said. “They like free food. Other businesses have said they were going to help.”

The participants in the program have had some sort of drug problem, either a drug charge or a drug abuse issue. Youth court referee Amy Taylor said sometimes those drug issues are on the periphery. Sometimes they are at the heart of the problem.

As part of her role, Taylor meets with the young people in the program twice a month.

“Education is very important to us,” she explained. “Many of the kids in the program have dropped out of school, and that’s not okay. We’re going to get a diploma or a GED or something. Several who I keep up with have gone on to graduate and get good jobs. 

“I think one of the reasons the program has been so successful, and why I enjoy it, is because these kids crave structure. They want consequences for their actions for motivation.”

Taylor remembered one young man who went through the program last year. After dropping out of high school and getting caught up in drugs, she said he came out of the program determined to make something of himself.

After re-enrolling and earning a high school diploma, the young man attended the Mississippi Youth Challenge Academy in Hattiesburg and is now an enlistee in the United States Marine Corp.

In addition to providing a clear path forward, Hazlewood said the program gives participants options to fix their problems at a young age, rather than letting them fester.

“To fix their problems,” he said. “We teach them life skills and how to say no in a certain situations.”

Chancellor Joseph Kilgore announced the court at the 2017 Neshoba County Fair.

“There is a great need to address the issues that are contributing to juvenile drug use and ultimately juvenile crime,” Judge Kilgore said in 2017. “Our Youth Court referees are telling me that the use of drugs is somehow involved in many of these cases. Even if the initial infraction is not drug-related, our referees are able to find drug use somewhere in the picture.”

“The missing link in our courts now and in addressing the issues that come before the courts seems to be related to ongoing active oversight that traditional youth courts are unable to provide.”

Juvenile Drug Courts use early intervention and intensive supervision to deter drug use and prevent criminal behavior, he said at the time.

In the first phase, participants will be under house arrest and will be subjected to drug testing three times a week. Those who fail a drug screen may be detained. Participants are expected to be under the supervision of the Youth Drug Court for at least a year. Families must be willing to be supportive of their children’s participation, Kilgore said.