Pinellas PACE program helps at-risk youth and saves taxpayer money

(Source: Homepage pacecenter.org)

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Pinellas County organization is being credited with saving tax dollars while also helping at-risk youth.

Instead of going thru the juvenile justice system,  many girls who are convicted of a crime have a chance to choose the PACE Center for Girls; and with it, they choose a different way of life.

Tabitha Pask is truly thankful she found PACE. “I wouldn’t be the person who I am if it wasn’t for that school…that’s a fact.”

She rarely saw her father. Her mother abused drugs and died when Tabitha was only 14. That’s when she began making some wrong life choices. But thanks to PACE, she’s pursuing her dreams of one day working in television.

“With the counseling and smaller classrooms I was able to focus on myself .”

Public Defender, Bob Dillinger, knows the importance of saving young women at a critical time in their lives.

“These are girls that are at risk and at risk is a very expensive proposition.”

When a juvenile is arrested, it costs about $106 a day to keep them behind bars.

If that child is “Baker Acted” because they’re a threat to themselves or others, it costs $325 a day. The Baker Act is a Florida law that allows temporary detention of people who are impaired because of mental illness and are unable to determine their own method of treatment, according to UF Health.

The non-profit program called PACE not only keeps girls out of jail, it offers them an education, counseling and mentoring.

“It’s an incredible savings to the community in both human resources and financial resources.”

Tabatha is just one example of a life saved. Her advice to other young girls?

“Think before you act, because you will definitely have to pay for the consequences if you make the wrong decision.”

Taxpayers save about $5,000 per year to pay for a child at PACE versus a child in juvy. That adds up to a lot of savings.

 

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