Gwinnett County

Activists say money for new Gwinnett youth detention center should be spent elsewhere

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Critics want to see the millions of dollars that are allocated for a new youth detention center spent on youth programs instead.

Tristen Johnson, 16, is not the best at golf.

But he’s better at being a great kid with a bright future.

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“If I was doing what I had been doing, I wouldn’t be in the same position that I’m in today,” Johnson told Channel 2′s Audrey Washington.

Johnson and his friends are a part of Gwinnett Chatt Outreach, a teen mentoring program that helps at-risk teens.

Ryan Cox heads the organization.

“We’re teaching life skills through the game of golf. So we use that to bring them in and we do behind-the-scenes tours of businesses, colleges,” Cox said.

He believes the program and others like it are the answer to keeping young people out of trouble.

Cox is against plans to build a new multi-million dollar youth detention center in Gwinnett County.

“Why not invest in programs like this where we’re teaching kids positive things?” Cox asked.

In March, Sheriff Keybo Taylor said the county needs a youth detention center to take the burden off law enforcement and to provide proper services.

“Unfortunately we’re seeing juveniles do things that we didn’t see ten years ago,” Taylor said.


But Johnson and his buddy Densy Castro both say young people need less investment in jails and more funding for youth programs.

“Open their minds to things and if you start them off young, they’ll get used to it and they’ll have more opportunities,” Castro said.

$3.8 million of state taxpayer dollars are already set aside to build the detention center.

There is no word yet on where it will be built.

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