Nevada County grand jury: juvenile hall is being transformed
Despite previous grand jury recommendations (2015-16 and 2017-18) to close the Carl F. Bryan II Juvenile Hall, the 2019-20 grand jury has released a report, “The Transformation of Juvenile Hall,” detailing how “the Nevada County Probation Department has worked toward repurposing Juvenile Hall to reduce the costs of juvenile detention and to ameliorate other unsolved problems in the community.”
In light of the two previous negative reports, “I really appreciate that they (grand jury) came back with a new report,” said Supervisor Heidi Hall, chairwoman of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
She said a workgroup comprised of the Probation, Sheriff’s, County Executive, County Counsel, Public Defender, Behavioral Health and Health and Human Services offices came up with the “best options” for the juvenile hall.
“I think they came up with a good solution,” said Hall, whose district includes the juvenile hall. The youth detention facility is located less than a half mile from the Nevada County Jail and the Eric Rood Administrative Center on Highway 49.
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Carl F. Bryan II currently houses juvenile and transitional age youth (TAY) offenders. Juvenile offenders are under 18 and TAY offenders are 18-25 years old.
The report, released last week, shows how and why juvenile detention costs have been reduced, and can be reduced, by cost-sharing with the Nevada County Dispatch Center and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. Additional funds are derived from housing juvenile and TAY detainees from other counties.
Also, under the direction of Chief Probation Officer Michael Ertola, plans are under consideration to expand the juvenile hall to a less stigmatized “youth facility.” The 4-H Club of Nevada County has already contracted to use space for one of its clubs to work with juvenile and TAY detainees, according to the grand jury.
Because of a dramatic, national decrease in juvenile crime and the rise of alternative sentencing options, the Nevada County juvenile hall is underpopulated. Therefore, the grand jury reported “the county has entered into contracts with Plumas, Sierra, Calaveras, El Dorado, Inyo, Modoc, and Lassen Counties to house those counties’ juvenile detainees.
Hall said out-of-county detainees will benefit from Nevada County’s high-quality programs. Also, the juvenile hall needs the fees charged to confine out-of-county offenders.
‘A BETTER DEAL’
The Nevada County Dispatch Center will be relocated from the Nevada County Jail to the former administrative offices of the juvenile hall.
According to the report, “The space (at the jail) was small, cramped, crowded and uninviting, lacking a kitchen or break room, adequate restrooms or even windows. The new space at Juvenile Hall corrects all of those problems.”
Moving the dispatch center “frees up space in the jail for mental health,” Hall said. “It’s a better deal all the way around.”
The report adds, “The new dispatch offices may be complete by the end of 2020.”
The Earle Jamieson alternative education program for expelled and truant students, and those on probation, might be moved to the juvenile hall. It would be co-located with the existing Sugarloaf Mountain School for incarcerated youth, the report noted.
Although the 2019-20 juvenile hall report does not go into great financial detail, it said the annual cost of running the youth detention center in recent years was “in excess of $3 million.”
In the 2019-20 fiscal year, the budget for the juvenile hall is $2,468,960. Furthermore, “that figure does not reflect the future effects of spreading costs to dispatch and other county programs,” the report states.
However, “The fiscal effects of that repurposing will not be seen until next year at the earliest,” the report states.
The 2019-19 grand jury reaffirmed previous findings that “The county believes the benefit to house Nevada County youth locally in our therapeutic rich and proven environment … supersedes the cost benefit philosophy.”
“Yes, it’s expensive,” Hall conceded, but, “It’s a very good plan.” She added the COVID-19 pandemic is going to force the county to reassess its entire budget.
Tom Durkin is a staff writer with The Union.
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