Essex County Assistant District Attorney Brian Felton said he was impressed by how the former addicts took responsibility for their actions, whether it was the behavior in their past life, or now freely admitting to other behavior violations like littering, or snubbing others.
"It looks like the program is really making a difference in each of their lives," he said. "Each teenager is in a different phase, and you can detect a marked difference - it's very telling to the program's success."
He said he was surprised, as a prosecutor and county Drug Court facilitator, over their sensitivity to others' needs and feelings, openly talk about their own issues, and listen intently to both peers and adults.
"Their openness as to their past and their desire to change was amazing," Felton said. "Despite what they've been through, they still have hopes and goals."
Calvin Cumm of Whallonsburg, a neighbor of Lewis' farm, said he also was impressed about how people stood up and admitted wrongdoing.
"It looks like they are really learning integrity, which is really neat," he said. "Some neighbors near the Old County Home have been worried about these kids being out in their community, but I don't think anything like that will happen."
For more details about what Essex County officials saw on their trip to Mendham, N.J., visit www.thevalleynews.org.