New Program Offers Teens Alternative to Juvie

July 20, 2005 - Posted at 4:45 p.m. CDT


Jonesboro, AR - Here in Region 8, teens who break the law now have a new way to stay out of Juvie.  St. Bernards Behavior Health Summer Program lasts all summer and costs tax payers less money than juvenile detention.


Program Coordinator Steve Curry says it’s better to keep teens in a positive environment rather than incarceration, “They’re coming here three times a week.  They’re getting some skills training, and they’re able to go home and interact in that home environment and try some of these things out, just to see how it goes.” 


St. Bernards program started this June, and nearly 60 teens have already enrolled, mostly by judges' orders.  Jonesboro Judge David Goodson says he likes to have options for teens who could benefit from a structured, nurturing environment.  We’re looking for programs where we can give them guidance, structure, and activities to participate in,” says Goodson.


Repeat offenders and teens who’ve committed serious crimes might not be eligible for the program, so, the judges work with juvenile officers to find the best place for an offender.  Juvenile Intake Officer Ashley Boles refers teens to the program for “anger management counseling and life skills training – things they’re not going to get in a detention center.”


Teen participants go to the program three times a week for about seven hours each day.  Licensed social workers lead group sessions, and case workers meet with kids one on one.  Case workers say that kids need to relearn the ropes – life skills like getting along with one another, anger management and mutual respect.  The summer program keeps kids busy physically and mentally, with the hope that kids will stay off the streets and out of juvenile detention.