Local News

Program to Help Keep Juveniles Out of Trouble May Be Sacked

Posted January 28, 2008 11:00 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2008 11:41 p.m. EST

— A program designed to keep teenagers out of trouble may be history. The state recently cut nearly $23 million dollars in funding for the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

"When you break the law, there are consequences. That's what this program is about,” convicted murderer Nicole Kilpatrick told a group of teens to whom she spoke Monday.

Kilpatrick knows about making bad choices as a teen.

"For most of your lives, I have been incarcerated," she said.

Kilpatrick is serving a life sentence for murder. She is one of the convicts who talks to troubled teenagers about making better choices.

"I came to prison two months after my 18 birthday. I thought it couldn't happen. I thought I couldn't get caught," she said.

The state pays for the juvenile diversion program, but lawmakers are considering cutting funding to it and other programs like it.

"These programs are one of the best buys you can find in this state," said George Sweat, secretary of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Juvenile justice officials said taxpayers will end up paying now or later. A program like juvenile diversion costs about $1,000 per youth. The cost to lock up an offender is more than $95,000 a year.

The Department of Juvenile Justice is getting reading to launch a campaign it hopes will secure funding for the juvenile diversion program.

Officials said 56 percent of the juveniles who go through it never get in trouble again.

"I know we all make mistakes. I just pray to God that he makes the right choices,” parent Shontrell Clyburn said.

Clyburn's 13-year-old son was ordered to attend the program after getting into a fight at school. All of the teens involved in the brawl are facing misdemeanors. Clyburn hopes it is her son's first and last offense.

The Juvenile Crime Prevention Council operates 600 programs in all 100 counties.

The state asked the department to put together a report on the programs to help determine future funding needs.