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SALT LAKE CITY -- A one-of-a-kind youth program could close its doors this summer if it doesn't get funding this legislative session.
Facing a $5.5 million budget cut, Juvenile Justice Services may have to close its Genesis Youth Center, which helps youth offenders pay back victims of crime. Youth from all over the state are sent to Genesis to work off debt, go to school, and get their life back on track.
"Genesis is the state's only residential work camp program for boy and girls," said Susan Burke, director of the Division of Juvenile Justice Services. "What it provides is people who are court ordered to pay victim restitution or complete community service hours to come and get those restitution payments done in a really timely manner.
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In 2011, 276 youth were sent to stay at Genesis, and they worked on dozens of community projects around the state.
"These kids are not unaware of how this is changing their lives," said John Saxey, CTE advisor at Canyon's School District.
Last year Genesis youth completed over 74,000 hour of work, and their work equated to more than $489,000.
"I think we return a lot of services to the community that they otherwise would be paying for, so we're pretty valuable to a lot of agencies out there," said Vanessa Jarrell, director of the Genesis Youth Center.
Friday, those behind Genesis asked lawmakers to ensure at least $1.6 million in funding.
With budget cuts statewide, the JJS will have to close Weber Valley Detention Center in Roy, one of the oldest facilities, and other facilities will take on the youth. But they will also have to cut back receiving shelters around the state, shelters that provide counseling and care for children who have been abused.
"We've already laid off employees, we've already closed other programs," Burke said. "We've cut back on some services and it's really critical that we continue to provide young people that come into our system with the treatment and other mental health services that they need."
According to Burke, that means keeping Genesis open and keeping the youth working -- and climbing -- their way to a successful future.
Governor Herbert has recommended funding to keep Genesis open, but that's not a guarantee they'll get the money. The appropriations committee needs to approve it, and if they don't the doors at Genesis could close as soon as July 1.