Local News

Raleigh man recognized for turning his life around

Posted June 16, 2009 11:26 p.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2009 4:16 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh man is crediting the state's juvenile justice system for helping him turn his life around. This comes as the department is facing huge budget cuts that may eliminate some of the programs aimed at helping troubled youth.

"Most of them (juveniles) come from the same environment that I come from,” Michael Cox said.

Cox said he has few happy memories of his childhood.

"My mom, she was a good mom, until my dad went off to prison when I was 7 years old,” he said.

Cox said his mother turned to drugs, and he and his brothers were sent to foster care where they were abused.

"They said, 'We never be anything, we would be just like our mom, we would always be in trouble,'” Cox recalled.

Cox said he turned to crime and was locked up by the age of 12. He spent six years in and out of juvenile detention centers for various crimes.

Cox then met social worker Barbara Green, who inspired him.

"You know, she believed in me. She often said whatever I wanted to do, she would support me,” Cox said.

Green was by his side last month when Cox received the national Spirit of Youth Award in Washington, D.C. The award is given to young adults who have successfully been through the juvenile system.

Earlier this month, the House Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety proposed slashing spending for the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by $36 million.

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Secretary Linda Hayes said Cox's story is proof the system works.

"He is now a taxpayer, not a tax burden,” she said.

"Sometimes I pinch myself because I just don't understand how I made it that far," Cox said.

Cox said he doesn't want to see juvenile programs cut because then others, like him, might not be able to stay out of trouble.

The budget proposal includes eliminating the Center for the Prevention of School Violence, closing the Dobbs Youth Development Center in Kinston and the Samarkand Youth Development Center in Moore County and cutting 255 juvenile justice positions.