Members of Louisiana's Legislative Black Caucus received the National Legislative Appreciation award from AMIKids, Inc. at their annual Board of Trustees event in Tampa, Florida. Approximately three hundred board members, directors and supporters of the organization were in attendance when AMIkids President O.B. Stander presented the honor to First Vice Chair Rep. Girod Jackson III from District 87 and Rep. Austin J. Badon, Jr. from District 100.
Due to statewide budget cuts, AMIkids were faced with the possibility of closing all of the Day Treatment programs in Louisiana. As longtime supporters of the programs, the Black Caucus approached AMIkids and asked if they could help prevent the closures. The result was an allocation of $2.5 million dollars, funds appropriated by Governor Jindal for Louisiana communities and enough to keep the community-based programs whole.
"Each year AMIkids recognizes the policy makers that we feel most help the kids in the juvenile justice system," Stander stated. "This year this group of Louisiana legislators literally made the difference in whether kids in Louisiana communities got the chance to change their lives."
Founded in 1969, AMIkids, Inc. is a nationally-recognized not-for-profit that offers a promising future to more than seven thousand kids in the community juvenile justice system each year through positive and motivating programs that inspire learning, leadership and personal growth. Through education, counseling and behavior modification students are empowered to make positive decisions that will ultimately shape their future.
According to the Justice Policy Institute, "Holding youth in secure juvenile facilities can lead to costly litigation for states. Imprisoning youth can have severe detrimental effects on youth, their long-term economic productivity and economic health of communities." The AMIkids Community-based Day Treatment model works with kids and their families in their communities, instillingresponsibility, self-discipline, leadership and learning. Kids transitioning to their communities from this staff-secure model, such as that of AMIkids, and becoming taxpaying citizens, contribute to the economy and save the state the cost of new crimes and incarceration.
The AMIkids model has proven to be effective. With a national Day Treatment success rate of 76 percent and a Louisiana Day Treatment success rate of 85 percent, they are one of the leading juvenile justice providers in the country. Many students also continue on to pursue trade certifications or college degrees.
"The Louisiana Black Caucus showed their unity, their courage and their value to stand up for what they value and what's right for kids," Stander said.
According to Rep. Badon, their support for the kids is just part of their duty to represent the State of Louisiana. "We cannot arrest our way out of our problems... we have to use programs like AMIkids to ensure that our prison beds are not filled."
The commitment of the Black Caucus members did not end there. Following the presentations of two young men who shared how their lives have changed due to their participation in the AMIkids program, Rep. Badon, who also chairs the Education Committee, surprised AMIkids with the news that he had two scholarships for the graduates if they choose to attend college in Louisiana. The scholarships certainly promise to impact the lives of the recipients; one of them stated that he will be the first person in his family's history to earn a high school diploma.
Badon continued, "We are proud of these young men. They are doing what they are supposed to be doing and now we are just doing what we are supposed to be doing."