In the May ballot initiative 17-59, if approved, would restore funding for the jail and juvenile justice center in Grants Pass (owned and operated by Josephine County) and free up funds currently used for the jail to be re-directed to providing sheriff’s deputies again in the county. Maintaining a fully functional criminal justice system is a priority for any community, but the details can prove complex and there are many aspects to consider. Much of the argument for or against the levy focuses on the jail and how much money would then be allocated to sheriff’s deputies, but often the juvenile justice piece is lost in the shuffle. That begs the question, is it worth allocating some of those funds raised by the levy for the youth justice in our county?
(Total levy would cost a household an additional $119 for every $100,000 value of their home)
First, what do the County and City currently have in place for troubled or at-risk youth?
Answer: Just about nothing since the County center was shut down 2 years ago.
So not only are there extremely limited options for dealing with dangerous youth who need detention, but there is nowhere to send abused children or other at-risk kids that need temporary shelter.
How much of a need is there?
The short answer: A lot.
In the last year the facility operated, approximately 250 youth were held for a time in detention, while the shelter was used close to 800 times. Some of those were repeat visits by at-risk kids, but the numbers are still staggering. That averages to at least two children every single day of the year needing shelter. Without the facility, most of those needs go unmet.
The good news is that the county already owns a fantastic, multi-million dollar facility that has been described as one of the best juvenile centers in the state. All the citizens of the county need to do is decide to fund it. An excellent virtual tour was completed recently and can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oug7gAi3AfA&feature=youtu.be
The shelter side of the facility is set up in a home-friendly environment where the youth are fed, housed, taught school classes, given access to medical care if needed, and taught how to function in a ‘normal’ environment, which for some of the youth proves to be their first exposure to a healthy environment.
As one former staff member put it, “Some kids have never been treated as human beings. We stabilize them, get them the professional help they need, and make them productive citizens.” So can a case be made for funding the juvenile justice center and helping at-risk youth while they are still young, in assisting them
to overcome sometimes horrific challenges and begin productive lives?
I say there is.
Author: Frank Morin