STAR Academy

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Last week Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen announced he's closing the camp within 90 days and is coming out with a new program.

Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen says he's been researching and planning a new juvenile rehabilitation program well before the Martin Lee Anderson tragedy.

Today he unveiled a more complete picture of the "STAR" Academy.

No more intimidation tactics or a high powered physical training regiment. At his news conference Tuesday morning, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen stressed that his new "STAR Academy" will not be just another boot camp.

Frank McKeithen, Bay County Sheriff, says, "We're going to deal with why this young man has a problem, not get caught up with you've got a problem, and we're gonna try to fix it before they have a problem."

Just like the boot camp, the STAR Academy will target young people headed down the wrong path, but the programs are quite different. In the past, children were sent to the boot camp after an offense. Now they have to be deemed at risk and volunteered by a parent prior to any criminal offense.

The boot camp employed paramilitary tactics. The first day in the STAR Academy will be more like the first day of school.

The boot camp's rules and regulations were set by the state and there was no type of follow-up program. The STAR Academy will be locally controlled and the child will have a mentoring figure in his life.

Capt. Mike Thompson with BSO says, "We want to make sure we're dealing with the right type of kid for the right type of program. You don't want to place a child in a program that is not appropriate for physical, reasons, medical, etc."

Sheriff McKeithen believes this program will head-off the problem of juvenile delinquency by educating troubled teens before they are saturated by the system.
Phase one of the program will be male juveniles only. As it grows the sheriff hopes to offer a similar program to females considered to be at risk.

1,500 juveniles were arrested in Bay County last year. McKeithen hopes this program will reach those kids before they wind-up behind bars.

Sheriff McKeithen is hoping to have someone step up to the plate and possibly donate a site. Right now they don't have a site.