Ohio program aims to use music to help teens in the system.

A program in Ohio is gaining national attention as an alternative to treating troubled teens who continue to have run-ins with the law. The program, being tested in Dayton, exposes troubled teens to music to help them heal and develop a new path in life.

Montgomery County Juvenile Court’s restorative arts program has helped one teen who has had his share of trouble with the law. “Before the program came along, I was just non-stop yelling, cussing, doing stuff illegal and all that,” 15-year-old Jordan Hatmaker told WDTN of Ohio.

Troubled teens rehabilitated through music program


The program is helping teens like Hatmaker rediscover themselves and use their emotions more productively. Deron Bell is a licensed trainer of restorative practices who works with probation officers and he admits that he doesn’t reform teens who have broken the law. The justice system is already doing that. Rather, he is helping teens create a career interest through music.

“We’ve been able to connect, especially with youth, actually through music whether it’s country, whether it’s rap, whether it’s reggae, whether it’s folk,” Bell told WDTN.

This isn’t the first time that music has been associated with troubled teens. Music therapy is part of some programs across the country, giving teens a way to express themselves and become more in tune with self-awareness.

Music therapy can assist teens who find that the lyrics or tunes behind certain songs often express their own feelings and experiences. Teens gravitate towards music that describes how they are feeling in the moment and the things that are important to them.

This pilot program in Montgomery County is a bit different; giving teens an opportunity to meet weekly with a group discussion before ending their time as a group with a jam session. But the purpose of the program isn’t to turn these teens into the next big rock star.

“We hold them accountable for their behavior, but we also expose them to a variety of programs and services in the community,” said Darlene Powell, Director of Probation Services for Montgomery County Juvenile Court.

“It’s not that they’re coming here and having fun. It’s not that they’re coming here because we feel sorry for them,” stated Bell, emphasizing the program’s responsibility to helping teens heal and move past their mistakes through change.


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