Crime Tracker: Youth aid program to move into Abe Scharf YMCA

Taxpayers in Memphis and Shelby County pay a high price for juvenile crime.

The budget at Juvenile Court zoomed past $31 million in 2004.

Crime Tracker focuses tonight on a new program that treats young offenders with a faith based approach and it's not costing you a dime.

Just east of FedEx Forum, you'll find the old Abe Scharf YMCA at Linden and Lauderdale.

It's soon to be transformed into something called the JIFF "ForHim." The play on words emphasizes a faith based approach!

"We believe that real change takes place from the inside out," said the Rev. Rick Carr.

JIFF stands for Juvenile Intervention and Faith Based Follow-up. All the 12 to 18 year olds who come here after school are referred by Juvenile Court:

"Now we don't take Level one crimes such as murder, rape and especially aggravated assaults. But below those we take the kids and work with them," said Carr. 
"JIFF mean a lot to me. Without JIFF, I think I'd probably be locked up right now."

There's basketball and other after-school activities you'd expect as well as one on one mentoring from men like Tyrone Stewart:

"Letting them know I care where you been and I'm not there to point fingers and say you shouldn't have done and you shouldn't have did this. I'm there to just give my heart to them and hoping they will receive," said Stewart. 

Regular Bible study opens young minds to the Scriptures, in some cases, for the first time.

"We're not shoving our spiritual beliefs down their throat. We have our convictions that we teach but but we're modeling for them Christ and we're teaching them what He says about life and using His word for foundation for values," Carr said.

The new program appears to be working. Nationally, 82% of juveniles who have been incarcerated get in trouble with the law again, 57% return to juvenile jail.

JIFF, which has served 127 kids since March 2003, has only seen 31 percent of its graduates re-arrested and only 19 percent returned to lock-up.

"I think it helps me turn my life around," Carr. 

Juvenile Court refers cases to JIFF only with the voluntary approval of the parent or guardian.

This program has so much promise, we're going to devote another story to JIFF tomorrow night at 10.

To learn more about the program click here.