Juvenile work program faces closure, budget concerns

Posted at 12:11 PM, Feb 08, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-08 19:19:01-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- A major budget setback could be on the way to Juvenile Justice Services.

State lawmakers are working to prioritizing and comes down to just what the state can afford.

One program getting a serious look is the Genesis Youth Center, which is based in Draper. The work camp program needs about $1.25 million in funding or the center could close its doors this summer.

"It's been very challenging, we had to take several million dollar cuts in our programs. As a result we've had to reduce hours of operation, we've had to scale back some of the services," said Susan Burke, director of Juvenile Justice Services.

The Genesis Youth Center is a unique program that focuses on holding kids accountable if they committee a crime. The teens work on projects throughout the community so they can repay victims of crimes.

Last year, 232 youths performed 64,000 hours of work on dozens of projects. Without the center, program organizers say at risk youth will suffer.

"When a young person commits a crime in the community and a victim is harmed, we think the public believes that there should be immediate consequences for their behavior as well as the ability for these young people to pay back and help victims become whole again," Burke said.

Utah legislative committee members agree that early intervention is key and that Genesis Youth Center serves a critical need to troubled youths and the community.

"There's significant evidence that shows that having the ability to address issues with a juvenile quickly, very quickly, after something occurs is very crucial," said Utah Rep. Eric K. Huntchings, R-Kearns.

Committee members will continue to hammer out the state budget over the next couple of weeks before it is submitted to Gov. Herbert.