Juvenile Intake helps smooth the way for children -- and for law enforcement officers.
Within 15 minutes after a juvenile is detained by a law officer -- and many times sooner -- a small cog in the criminal justice machine starts turning.
That small but important cog is known as Juvenile Intake. Five intake workers plus a supervisor share around-the-clock duties. When a juvenile is detained in Douglas County, the intake workers are called. It's their job to help law officers determine where the child should go next.
"What we're looking for is the least restrictive place that will keep them safe and keep society safe as well," said Judy Culley, executive director of The Shelter Inc., which administers Juvenile Intake.
Since 1987, intake workers have helped law officers with all juvenile cases in the county. These can include a baby who is in a car when the driver is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a 17-year-old who is accused of shooting a man during an unsuccessful carjacking.
"We help to look for resources for what should happen next," said Culley, who's headed The Shelter for nearly 14 years.
Juveniles cannot be held within the sight or within hearing distance of an adult suspect, so the overcrowded Douglas County Jail usually is not the answer.
Maybe the child should be at home or at a relative's house. Sometimes a shelter, a hospital or a detention center may be the best placement.
If it takes awhile to find a placement, intake workers will supervise juvenile offenders in a conference room across from Sheriff Loren Anderson's office on the second floor of the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. Or they may be supervised in a small room in the basement of the law enforcement center that is equipped with a sleeper sofa, a television and a telephone. A kitchen is down the hall.
Funding for the program comes from both the city and county. For 1995, each body of government will provide $36,777 for the service.
Intake workers make a law enforcement officer's job easier.
"Law enforcement's job is to enforce laws," Culley said. "They're not trained to do the social work function."
Sometimes, Police Officer Mike McAtee said, an intake worker spends hours trying to find a safe place for a juvenile offender.
"They're a lot of help in that they free the officer up so they can start going out again and doing calls," said McAtee, who works with a number of Children in Need of Care as well as juvenile offenders. ``... They explain the system to the parents if it's the first time a child's been through it."
Culley applied the cog-in-a-machine analogy to Juvenile Intake.
"You can do it without it," she said, "but the machine works so much better with it."