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School program to help juvenile delinquents is cut because of lack of state funding

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BOSSIER CITY, La. -

A school program for juvenile delinquents will most likely shut down, and leave hundreds of children across the state of Louisiana with no place to go.

AMIKids Red River is apart of that program in Bossier City and looks like it will close because of state budget cuts.

"We need about $3 million statewide from the government," said Peyton Cole, board chairman for AMIKids Red River. "That's the funding that's being withheld, about $3 million. Our own is about $750,000."

Cole said the program sees about 100 students a year, but these aren't your normal students. They were placed in the program by judges as a last resort before prison.

"We have removed a tool from our justice system to use for these kids," said Cole. "And now, these kids are either going to have to be incarcerated or they'll just be out on the street."

In its 15 years, the AMIKids program proved to be successful. Cole said 86 percent of students did not get in trouble with the law at least 3 years after they graduated the program.

Kenny Cochran, the program's executive director, said the students work with social workers to work through different problems like drug or behavioral issues.

"Not only are we making progress with them educationally, but we're also seeing them make better human beings of themselves," said Cochran.

"It's a pay me now or pay me later type of thing, in that it's a heck of a lot cheaper to educate a kid than it is to incarcerate them," said Cole. "It's about four times more expensive to incarcerate a child than it is to teach them."

There are some last minute efforts to move the program inside a school, but its administrators are cautious.

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