Budget cuts threaten Angelina juvenile justice

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Angelina County JuvenileServices supports the goal of the newly created juvenile justice department.

"We don't want to seekids locked up," said Mark Gorman, the director of juvenile services inAngelina County.

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

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

The key is to keep teenoffenders 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 activitieshave a common goal.

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

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

"These programs, whenthey'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 thejuvenile justice system. So, if we fund them at the right level we're going tosee savings in the end."

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

"We've been fortunateacross the state to have fewer referrals," Gorman said. "Overall referrals todepartments are down."

Gorman attributes the dropin referrals to the support community-based programs are receiving. The concernis the momentum will go away if the funding disappears.

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