Mississippi closing juvenile delinquent programs

Mississippi closing juvenile delinquent programs

MISSISSIPPI (WDAM) - Mississippi is closing its Adolescent Opportunity Programs after losing federal funding.

"Adolescent Opportunity Program is a community based service that was originally funded by grant funds, and it has recently been funded with federal funding through The Department of Youth Service," said Judge William Andrews, Lamar County youth court and county court judge. "It provides local, community-based services to juvenile offenders between 12 and 17 years old. It provides family therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, drug and alcohol therapy. It's designed to retain the children in the communities, so they don't end up in the detention center or other placements outside their home."

Andrews said he received a letter from the state department of human services on May 10 announcing the closure.

"As you are aware we have lost funding for our Adolescent Opportunity Programs," reads the letter from James Maccarone, director of the division of youth services. "We are also asking that all youth disengage from the program by May 31, 2016. This will allow time for AOP staff to complete all tasks needed to close the program by June 30, 2016."

"With the AOP Program leaving, then, the things they've been doing, we wither won't do them or we'll have to find some other way to do them," Andrews said. "It means we have one less tool available to us for intervention with juveniles who get in trouble."

Andrews said he's seen success with the program and is sad to see it go.

"We're happy with the success that children have received. we're not successful with every child, but you never would be," Andrews said. "We're happy with the success of that the program has given us over the past, I guess it's been about seven or eight years. So we're going to miss it as a resource to help us with these children."