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Bossier Parish Teen Court in need of emergency funding to stay afloat

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(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)
(Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News) (Photo source: Erin Buchanan/KTBS 3 News)
BOSSIER CITY, La. (KTBS) -

"A judge and the DA actually in Bossier wanted teen court here and so I applied for that and I got it."

In her 13 years as Bossier Parish Teen Court Program Director, Pat Faulkinberry has seen the fear, the relief, and the resolve of local teens to never end up in trouble again.

"[The kids see] what the laws are. It's amazing the laws that they didn't even know existed and they learn how the court system works."

Faulkinberry says it costs about $55,000 a year to run the program, operated almost entirely by volunteers.

13 to 16-year-olds charged with first offense, non-violent crimes go before a jury of their peers to be sentenced.

If they complete their sentence, which usually consists of classes and community service, their records are kept clean, but they learn consequences.

And now half-way through 2014, Faulkinberry says she's been notified the program is short about $28,000.

To lose it all, she says, would be disastrous.

"It's amazing, all the good we do in the community. And people can talk all day about how wonderful the program is, but you have to come up with the money."

"A lot of times when they go through juvenile court, sometimes they get hook up with the wrong kids and get an unwanted education," explains Capt. Jim Whitman, with the Bossier City Marshal's Office.

Whitman says getting caught up with a rough crowd is something the kids avoid in teen court, and he stands behind the program's ability to steer teens in the right direction before its too late.

"I come here, I see it on a regular basis and it does wonders for a lot of these kids."

Since its inception, Bossier Parish Teen Court, which boasts a 96% completion rate, has taught over 2,600 kids to accept responsibility for the their actions.

The key here, Faulkinberry says, is that the teens have alreay admitted guilt.

If they choose to plead innocent, their case is referred back to Juvenile Court, where a much tougher sentence could be given, and end up on a permanent record.

Faulkinberry says over 40,000 hours of community service have been completed by these kids since 2001.

She says the monetary shortfall stems from gaming revenues through slot machines that have decreased at Louisiana Downs, her primary source of funding.

While she remains confident they'll find the money to get them through the end of the year, the program would still have to come up with a permanent - and stable - source of funding.

She plans to go before the Bossier Parish Police Jury at their meeting on May 21st.

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