County may close Juvenile Detention

Dear Editor,

The Board of County Commissioner’s (BOCC’s) is considering the closure of our local Juvenile Detention Center and subsequent move of these youth to Martin Hall in Medical Lake. Martin Hall is operated by a Montana corporation.

If this proposed move is news to you, you aren’t alone. The BOCC discussed the move during an open session on October 27, 2015; however, the issue was not included on the agenda and there were no notes of the discussion in the BOCC’s board minutes. The Juvenile Court Administration was not advised the Detention Center would be discussed. After learning about the October BOCC meeting, the Superior Court Presiding Judge and Juvenile Administrator contacted the BOCC’s office and requested to be informed before further discussions took place on the topic. However, the Juvenile Court Administration was not informed by the Commissioners prior to the next two meetings that discussed this proposed move.

The BOCC is conducting a cost/benefit analysis of the proposal. The analysis will examine four considerations: authority, capital facility cost, personnel cost and collateral impacts.

Authority: is it legal for the BOCC to outsourcing of the facility? The RCW is clear on this “juvenile court shall be administered by the superior court.”

Capital facility cost: the commissioners will consider operating and maintenance costs of maintaining the current facility or out-sourcing to a Montana corporation.

Personnel Costs: The move would result in the loss of approximately eight full-time jobs in our county.

Collateral Impacts: the county law enforcement agencies that use the juvenile facility will be required to transport youth to Medical Lake for processing, court appearances, etc.; increasing costs to these agencies.

The impact on the youth and their families must also be taken into consideration. Families of these youth will not be as likely to visit their children or work with the court system on ways to reduce recidivism because of the time and cost to travel to Medical Lake. Research shows that juvenile offenders whose families participate in the rehabilitation of their children while incarcerated have reduced recidivism rates.

I encourage the BOCC to retain our juvenile facility in our county.


Denise Varner