The commissioners made right decision on Juvenile Detention

Editorial Gary MugWhether it was the threat of more legal action or that they truly believed they finally had the information that they needed, the Okanogan County Commissioners’ decision to not send our juvenile detainees out of the county was a wise one.

While most of us, at least those of us of a certain age, believe in being conservative with our own money, the commissioners are elected to find the best ways to spend the tax revenue they collect from taxpayers. That usually means funding essential services – like road repair, criminal justice, law enforcement, public health, the jail and more. Juvenile justice too is an essential service – one that deals with our children.

It makes more sense to keep them here in our community, where they are close to family, friends, schools, clergy and the support they need to try and turn their lives around.

A look at the minutes of the June 14 and 21 commissioner meetings show that right here in Okanogan County juveniles who find themselves in trouble can recieve nearly everything they need in way of education, counseling and rehabilitation, without having to travel to Medical Lake or Chelan. The commissioners found out that the same sorts of services being offered at Martin Hall came at a price that was more than just dollars, but also at a loss of the community treating juvenile offenders at home can provide.

And the idea of moving the juveniles raised many more questions than whether the county could have saved a few dollars on housing them. Our local law enforcement voiced concerns over how they would house juveniles if they were detained until a van could be sent from Chelan or Medical Lake to pick them up. Certainly not in city jail, since the state made it necessary for all the police departments in the county to give up their jails – and those were for adults, not juveniles. Then there was the matter of who was going to watch the juveniles when they were bused back to the county for their hearings. We’re sure the sheriff’s office didn’t have the extra manpower to do so, or the budget. Then what do you do with them if their trial lasts for more than a day, where are they housed until the next day, certainly not in the county jail or in the old detention all? Or are they bused back to Chelan or Medical Lake only to turn around and head back to the county seat? Who pays for that – it begn to sound more and more like moving them out of the county would have been penny wise and pound foolish.

We’ll just have to take them at their word that this information was a revelation and not fear of the legal entanglements promised when a special attorney was appointed by the state attorney general to ensure the county was staying on their own side of the fence when it came to the separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches.

The commissioners chased this issue pretty far down the rabbit hole. However, it seems they came to their senses and made the right decision. Let’s hope Commissioners Jim Detro, Ray Campbell and Sheilah Kennedy continue to listen to the people who know the most about their fields of expertise and base future decisions on good information like that which they said was provided by those at the Juvenile Detention presentation.