At-risk juvenile programs closing due to funding changes - - Jackson, MS

At-risk juvenile programs closing due to funding changes

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The state's alternative sentencing method for at-risk juveniles is being cut. A change in federal funding guidelines and a tight state budget are being blamed.

Counseling, tutoring and substance abuse prevention are some of the services that will be lost. Adolescent opportunity programs stop the pipeline to prison in its tracks for many at-risk kids in Mississippi; counseling, tutoring and substance abuse prevention. 

"It's heartbreaking to know we won't be able to continue the programs," explained Sheletta Buckley, executive director at the South Central Community Action Agency.

AOPs, as they're called, are used as alternative sentencing for kids ages 12-17.

"At this time, we're trying to put them back on the right track to let them know that continuous misdemeanors can lead to you going into a detention center," said Buckley.

The Department of Human Services released a statement Thursday. It said they were recently notified that federal funding could no longer be used for juvenile services for youth adjudicated by the courts. DHS said it's left with little choice but to close all the AOPs. They are searching for additional funding.

Judge Brooke is the chair of the Mississippi Youth Court Judges Association. He says the cost of keeping a kid in the adolescent opportunity program is $50 a day versus $400 a day for the juvenile detention center. Everyone connected to the program says they're hoping, for the kids' sake, that another funding source can be found.

"Schools about to be out and our program goes year round," noted Buckley. "They won't have any engaging positive activities that's going to keep them from, deterring them from doing something wrong."

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