In the past few years, the number of juveniles that need to be sent to a secure detention facility after being picked up by police has dropped.
In 2011, 505 juveniles had to be housed at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center. Last year, that number was 418, a 17 percent drop. The same has been true nationwide, where the number dropped by 42 percent between 1997 and 2011.
And during that time, county officials have questioned whether Johnson County needs to keep its juvenile detention center, which has room to house up to 48 juveniles.
In response, the county created a committee to look at what the center does and its value in the county.
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And what that group found was that while the need for a place to detain juveniles may be shrinking, the need for other services the center provides is growing, local officials said.
The group also found that sending the juveniles that do need to be kept in a detention facility to another county would be more costly than keeping them here, and the county would lose several of the services those juveniles get, said Johnson County Circuit Court Judge Mark Loyd, who oversees the center.
Programs at the center include support groups for teens, counseling, education and early intervention, and the goal is to keep them out of the detention center, said Johnson County Juvenile Court Judge Andy Roesener.
“There’s a lot more going on there that’s a benefit to the kids,” Roesener said.
And the number of juveniles and their families in those programs has grown in recent years, from 32 in 2011 to a high of 120 in 2014, according to numbers from the center. Those programs range from day reporting, where juveniles come to the center during the day for community service and schoolwork, to evening reporting, where they come to the center at night for homework and life skills programs and treatment for substance abuse.
The programs allow the county to analyze the risk factors for juveniles offending again or continuing to commit crimes as adults and to try to intervene, such as through working with the child’s family, he said.
“Our big success is the number of kids not in detention because we are offering these programs,” he said.
The county doesn’t have another place to run those needed programs, Roesener said.
The center also provides education services for juveniles, including continuing their schoolwork or working toward their high school diploma, and services for mental health and substance abuse treatment that are becoming more needed, said Kristi Bruther, director of the juvenile detention center. The study showed the number of juveniles at the center in need of mental health services has grown from just under 20 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2015.
All the juveniles at the center or who are referred to juvenile probation, such as after an arrest, go through an assessment and screening to see what services would benefit them, Bruther said.
They can be enrolled in programs through the juvenile detention center, Adult and Child or Valle Vista, depending on their needs, she said.
And because of all the programs and work the juvenile system does with the children, it is more successful than the adult criminal system, said Roesener, who formerly worked as a deputy prosecutor and defense attorney.
Cases move through the system faster, and juveniles with substance abuse or mental health issues get quickly enrolled in programs and services they need, even when they are still in the detention center, Roesener said.
“Part of our success is the thoroughness of testing and the short time from offense to testing,” Roesener said.
Here is a look at some details about the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center:
Juveniles recommended to continue mental health services
2011: 20 percent
2015: 26 percent
Juveniles requiring no follow up programs
2011: 64 percent
2015: 54 percent
SOURCE: Juvenile detention center