Superintendent wants more money for gang prevention programs

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News 12 First at Five, November 16, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Barton Village is a community known to be the hangout for the "O-Dub" gang.

Bettye Jones, Director of the Barton Village Community Center, says the gang arrests under Operation Augusta Ink have made some youth turn to the community center instead of the streets.

"Some of them recognize their friends in the paper and some of them see their friends that have been shot and killed. So, we try to make them realize, this is not the right path," says Jones.

It's one of the few gang prevention programs in the county. But Richmond County School Superintendent, Dr. Dana Bedden, says this sparks another issue.

"The issue is, if there's a youth gang problem, they have to go to school. So you have gang members that attend school," said Dr. Bedden.

Three of those school-aged gang members attended high school in Richmond County. All three arrested Tuesday.

Dr. Bedden says students should be punished for their actions, but more money should be spent to keep them out of jail.

"If you look at the Corrections Department web site, they spend anywhere from $40 to $52 a day to imprison someone, which amounts to $15,000 to $17,000 a year to incarcerate a person," said Dr. Bedden

Only half as much, about $8,000 is spent on educating one child for a year. A difference of about $8,000.

"So something's wrong with that picture,"says Dr. Bedden,"Even having that additional $8000 would allow us to provide a whole lot more intervention and prevention programs within the school system that may prevent the student from seeking that type of association with gangs."

Bettye Jones agrees. She says if there were programs like hers in the schools, more kids could be helped.

"It's hard, but it pays off and if we could save 3 or 4 kids we're happy," said Jones.
Here's the approximate breakdown.
Cost per prisoner per year : $15,972.40
Cost per student per school year : $7,778.86
Difference: $8,193.54

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