H-T coverage of juvenile justice forum

October 17th, 2008  |  Published in Uncategorized

I don’t have the time or energy right now to process yesterday’s community meeting on the building of the county juvenile facility.  I learned a lot, was pretty disheartened, and realized, more than anything, that perceptions and realities of limited resources force people with similar interests and goals to become adversaries.  This is how the local paper covered the event.

 

To clarify my position, I feel that the current Youth Services Bureau should not be relocated or its services replicated on the site of any secure detention facility (adult or juvenile).  I also feel like the current dual role of the YSB as a safe space and as a place where youth are sent by schools, police, courts, or parents is problematic.  There needs to be seperate spaces and adequate funding and staff for both roles.   Ultimately, neither should be on the same site or share staff with any kind of secure detention facility.  Furthermore,  our community needs to expand existing, and develop new  recreational, cultural, counseling, therapeutic, and healthcare opportunities that are youth-initiated, youth-feedback-responsive and voluntary to all the youth of the county.  We must respond to the needs and desires of youth before entering the juvenile justice system, during supervision, and after supervsion, as well as the needs of youth who do not come into contact with the justice system or other services at all.  The proposal of a justice campus would effectively lock much-needed resources and oppotunities for programs behind bars.

 

Juveniles focus of first meeting on justice issues
Reasons for, against building local juvenile center discussed

By Bethany Nolan 331-4373 | bnolan@heraldt.com
October 17, 2008

Reducing the number of repeat offenders, expanding the range of sanctions available to local justice officials and centralizing services have been identified as “guiding principles” for Monroe County as it looks toward building its own juvenile center.

That’s what members of the public learned at the first of four public forums related to potential construction of new criminal justice facilities, hosted by the Monroe County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and Noblesville-based consulting firm PSMI Inc. The county commissioners hired the consulting firm back in April to develop facility, site space and operations programs for a new jail, sheriff’s office and juvenile center, plus help identify capital and operating costs and choose contractor, architectural and vendor services.

Other meetings will be held in the upcoming weeks that will focus on a jail and community corrections and work release programs. After those, consultant Bill Shepler said the firm will present the commissioners with a master plan.

Monroe Circuit Judge Steve Galvin — who handles juvenile cases — pointed out he’s sat in on 20 years’ worth of discussions about a juvenile center, and said Monroe County is the only one of the state’s 15 largest counties that doesn’t have its own facility.

“We have to do it,” he said of constructing a center. “It is our duty. It is our responsibility.”

He said the county spends about $1.4 million annually on both the Youth Services Bureau — which has a shelter and provides other services to young people — and to house local juveniles in secure detention at other facilities throughout the state. On any day throughout the year, approximately seven local youths are in secure detention and between 10 and 12 are in shelter care, he said.

Youth Services Bureau director Ron Thompson said he’s not so sure about a new facility, pointing out his current programs are underfunded and wondering if local officials would do the same in the future. He also wondered if his facility would be rendered moot by a new juvenile center. Galvin replied he’d like to leave the current shelter as is, but admitted it could be difficult to fund both.

Geoff Hing, with newly organized advocacy group Decarcerate Monroe County, said the county’s Safe Place site shouldn’t be at the same place as troubled youth, as it is now with the youth shelter. Others spoke about their concern of a “kiddie jail,” arguing that locking up troubled kids isn’t going to help anything, while others pointed out locating youth services next to an adult prison could send a troubling message.

“It’s never been our intention to have a youth jail here, but rather a part of a continuum of care,” Monroe Circuit Judge Kenneth Todd said. “We’re not about incarcerating kids.”

The idea for a justice campus and a corrections campus took root last October, when the plan was backed by all three county commissioners, the sheriff, five of the seven members of the county council and the county’s board of judges.

The project calls for building a new county jail, sheriff’s office and juvenile center on 85 acres off South Rogers Street. The county already owns the site, but it has no infrastructure.

After the new facilities are built, the plan calls for renovating the Justice Building — which houses the jail on its top floors — to make more space for courts and other county offices there.