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Juvenile Justice Center replaces boot camp with rehabilitation

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Three new rehabilitation programs are replacing boot camp at the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center. Three new rehabilitation programs are replacing boot camp at the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center.
CORPUS CHRISTI -

When you hear juvenile detention, you almost always think of boot camp. But now the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center has done away with it, and is changing its way of dealing with troubled youth. 

The Juvenile Justice Center has just become one of the first in the state to shift the focus from away from the traditional, militarized boot camp towards therapy. They have launched brand new rehabilitation programs, and some kids are just now starting to participate. 

For twenty years, the Nueces County Juvenile Justice Center had a tough stance when it came to kids that broke the law. 

"Just like you'd see in the military. Hard-nose structure, yelling and screaming a little bit, you know push ups," said Judge Timothy McCoy, the juvenile court judge. 

However this year, they are moving away from that. 

"It didn't treat as well the underlying reasons why children were getting into trouble and committing crimes," Judge McCoy said. 

Judge McCoy and Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Homer Flores say new research and data point to boot camp alternatives as better solutions for curbing youth crime.

"A more therapeutic environment is proven more beneficial," Flores said. 

As a result, the Juvenile Justice Center is rolling out three new rehabilitation programs. One is for general offenders, and another program focuses on drug treatment. 

"It's a pretty regimented series of counseling that they go through on a day to day basis," Flores said. 

A third program will launch by the end of summer and offer one-on-one counseling for girls who have experienced trauma, everything from sex-trafficking to situations at home. 

"Get to the root issue and help them get back into the community in a place where they can feel safe," Flores said. 

The new approach aims to keep kids from being arrested again and prevent them from ultimately ending up in the adult system.

"It's not that we're softening up on crime," Judge McCoy said. "This is a lock down facility, and there's a reason why these children are here. But what our goal is, and the goal of the juvenile system, is to cut recidivism. It's just a different approach."

Eight kids are now participating in the new rehab programs.

Since the facility is one of the few of its kind in Texas, the goal is to ultimately not only help kids from Nueces County, but also take in youth from other counties across the state.

Nine kids from other counties may soon come to the facility to take part in the new programs. The Juvenile Justice Center can hold up to 40 youth. 

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