Henderson County is now transporting its juvenile offenders to neighboring counties after the state ordered the immediate closure of the juvenile detention facility following a routine inspection.
The state shut down the facility Oct. 24 after Texas juvenile department monitors determined the Henderson County Juvenile Detention Center in Athens did not have enough certified officers on staff.
"They came in and said we were out of compliance and we have acted accordingly," said David Holstein, Henderson County judge.
Holstein added there were no problems with the treatment of juveniles, but only with the training and certification of officers.
More than 25 percent of the officers on staff, composed entirely of part-time workers, did not have the proper certifications to work at the detention center.
"It's harder to ask someone who is working in a part-time job to take time off of their other job to take classes," said James Owen, Henderson County attorney. "We have tried to get the facility in compliance with the new juvenile regulations, but it's only going to get more difficult."
In accordance with the regulations for the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, a facility the size of the Henderson County's, which has four beds, has to comply with the same rules as a facility with 100 beds.
State regulations require the county to maintain a 12 to 1 ratio of children to officers at nighttime and 8 to 1 during the day. The facility is also required to separate juveniles along gender lines.
"If the county has one male juvenile and one female juvenile in custody, that would require two certified officers supervision 24/7," Holstein said.
Now, the county has to decide where to put its juvenile offenders, until required changes from the state are met, and if making the changes the state requires will be cost effective. ...
Before the detention center closed, Henderson had contracts with Anderson and Van Zandt counties to take any overflow from their facility. Now, the two counties are taking all of their juveniles to the cost of $70 to $80 a day per juvenile.
Supporters of transporting the juveniles rather than training workers said the change could save the county nearly $200,000 per year.