Mobile and Escambia Counties to withdraw juvenile offenders from - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Mobile and Escambia Counties to withdraw juvenile offenders from Baldwin Wilderness Camp

Sheriff's investigators say a female staff member was raped by a 15-year-old male camper on a nature trail at the Baldwin County Residential Wilderness Facility Tuesday, December 22. Sheriff's investigators say a female staff member was raped by a 15-year-old male camper on a nature trail at the Baldwin County Residential Wilderness Facility Tuesday, December 22.
BALDWIN COUNTY, AL (WALA) -

 
A wilderness camp for troubled teens is about to be in a serious funding dilemma. 

Two counties will no longer be sending their juvenile offenders to the camp, which will cause a big decrease in revenue for the facility. 

This comes after a teen camper allegedly raped a staff member there in December of 2015. A FOX10 News Investigation also found another staff member was assaulted by a group of teen campers there the year before. 

It's called the Baldwin County Residential Wilderness Facility, and it's an alternative to a juvenile detention center, where troubled kids are sent by a judge's order. 

It's meant to be a treatment facility for juveniles, to help them get a fresh start, but, it has a big price tag.

It costs $5 million a year to operate.

Nearly half of the campers come from other counties, and they were attending the facility on the Baldwin County taxpayer's dime. So, Baldwin County Commissioners decided to force those counties to pay for the kids they send there. 

So far in the negotiation process, both Mobile and Escambia Counties have said they will not be paying for their campers. 

Mobile County Juvenile Judge Edmund Naman sung praises of the facility, noting he was grateful that Mobile County juveniles had the opportunity to go there, but he said he regretfully had to make the decision to stop sending juvenile offenders to the camp now that it's no longer free.

"I feel bad that we cannot continue it, and certainly they have provided a great service to Mobile County, but we've been under extreme budget cuts since 2010, and I've lost about $2 million yearly in funds that I have available for programs like this," said Naman. "So it just is a matter that I do not have any other choice."

This means the facility will lose nearly half of its campers.

The camp gets some $3 million a year in medicaid reimbursements, so that equals about $2 million in Baldwin County taxpayer money used to fund the camp's daily operations, but with a drop in camp attendance, will come a drop in medicaid revenue for the facility. 

"That really just leaves us with the Baldwin County kids, and there aren't enough of them to fill this whole facility up. We overbuilt this facility years ago, and at this point we're looking at what the demand is, frankly, after the fact, and it's time to make some serious changes," said Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott. 

Tuesday morning, the Baldwin County Commission will discuss what to do with the current Mobile and Escambia County campers, and the commission could also decide on several layoffs. 

We'll let you know what happens. 

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