Sunday, November 11, 2007

Small county juvenile detention center closed in Henderson

A few weeks after the Texas Youth Commission shut down a privately operated Coke County facilility was shut down, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, with much less hoopla, shut down the Henderson County juvenile detention center, a much smaller, county-run facility out in East Texas, because of staffing shortfalls. In the short term, reports the Tyler Morning Telegraph ("Juvenile Detention Center Closed," Nov. 9)
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.


Anonymous said...

How far away from their county are they going to be shipped? How will their families visit them? How much worse will this make access to adequate legal representation.

Anonymous said...

This is just one outcome of the TYC problem and SB 103. Small counties that are not given the funds to adequately operate under the new standards set forth by the Lege will continue to suffer.

Anonymous said...

Expending 200K or more a year to operate a 4 bed pre-adjudication detention facility, staffed with p/t employees, is a horrible waste of resources. Transporting to a contract facility is a much better solution. At $80 a day, that $200K would allow for approx. 2500 bed days a year.

Most likely, the reason this detention center was operating was to give local probation staff and the juvenile judge the ability to wield the big threat of, "if you don't do X, Y or Z, I'm gonna lock you up!" From looking at the most recent stats (2005) Henderson Co. had 266 referrals to the prob. dept for the year. Of those referred, 245 were placed in detention. That’s not a good track record – there is NO good reason to be using pre-adjudication detention to that extent. In the short and long term, it's ineffective as a response to a juvenile being referred for delinquent conduct or probation non-compliance and economically, it's a bust.

So, in reality, this shut-down of operations in Henderson Co. is not a good example of how SB 103 has short changed the counties with unfunded mandates. This is more likely an example of how a small county judge, DA and probation department lost sight of how they should be addressing their community corrections needs a long time ago. Any local county policy that results in detaining over 90% of their juvenile referrals needs to take a step back and review how they can use their resources in a more effective way and save pre-adjudication detention for those times when a juvenile truly is in need of a secure confinement.