Budget cuts threaten Angelina juvenile justice - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Budget cuts threaten Angelina juvenile justice

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) -

The Angelina County Juvenile Services supports the goal of the newly created juvenile justice department.

"We don't want to see kids locked up," said Mark Gorman, the director of juvenile services in Angelina County.

Gorman has sent three offenders to lockup in the last year. The majority are at home.

"That's the idea is try to provide those services in the community first before we have to remove a child from their home and place them either in a residential facility and/or a locked facility," Gorman said.

The key is to keep teen offenders involved in local programs. Monday, one group learned job skills. Tuesday, they'll tour a university and end the week with an Astros game. The activities have a common goal. 

"It provides them with skill building and self esteem," said Jessica Rucobo, a community liaison officer.

A recommended 10-percent budget cut could threaten the very programs that keeps delinquent youths home. The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition is concerned.

"These programs, when they're fully funded, will actually save money," said spokesman Benet Magnuson. "They are the best solution that will keep kids from coming in and out of the juvenile justice system. So, if we fund them at the right level we're going to see savings in the end."

Last year, Angelina County received 243 referrals, a significant drop from the 297 seen the prior year. Burglary and misdemeanor assaults have dropped, yet sexual assault referrals have tripled.

"We've been fortunate across the state to have fewer referrals," Gorman said. "Overall referrals to departments are down."

Gorman attributes the drop in referrals to the support community-based programs are receiving. The concern is the momentum will go away if the funding disappears.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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