A Jacksonville community self-help program for at-risk youth has
been shut down after background checks turned up criminal
records on people running the program, including its director.
Staff members at Operation Streets had firearm, drug and
violent crime convictions, including one man with a conviction
for sexual battery on a female minor.
The financial tap was turned off last week on the $216,000
received annually by the program, which works with children from
low-income families in activities after school and on weekends.
The program couldn't continue, said Richard Danford, director
of the Jacksonville Urban League, which administers the funds
provided by the state Department of Juvenile Justice, because
state regulations adopted last fall bars people with any of
several "disqualifying offenses" from working with children.
He would not say how many staff members of the Operation
Streets, 2424 N. Myrtle Ave., had disqualifying criminal
The state-mandated background checks, some going back 40 years,
turned up convictions for drug and firearm offenses on the
program's director, Shaka Bin-yahya, a history he did not deny.
"Is it just a cliche to say, `I've paid my debt to society,' or
is it real?" Bin-yahya said.
He said who better to teach children not to go astray than
people who had run afoul of the law.
Bin-yahya said he was not given the real reason for the
cut-off by the Urban League. He said he was told that a