Archive for Saturday, July 27, 2002

Inmate shortage may close juvenile detention center

July 27, 2002


— With hardly any juveniles to lock up, a western Kansas juvenile detention center may soon be forced to close.

The daily average of inmates at the Greater Western Kansas Regional Juvenile Detention Center has fluctuated between zero and two recently. The lockup serves 26 counties surrounding Trego County.

Earlier this month, the Trego County Commission notified the company that runs the center the county would suspend its contract because of the low number of detainees. The contract with Kelley Detention Services of Kansas City, Mo., guarantees an average of 7.5 detainees. County commissioners were worried they would have to pay to make up the difference.

Trego County is already paying $9,000 per year through 2013 to the state for a loan that helped build the facility in 1996.

Trego County serves as the host county for the facility and 25 other counties in the region pay a $1,000 annual fee plus a daily rate for each juvenile held.

So far, no county has stepped forward with more money.

The anticipated closure of the detention center won't affect the secure care unit, housed at the same complex and also managed by Kelley. That is a group home for chronic runaways.

Terry Campbell, vice president of operations for Kelley, said the drop in the number of juveniles being sent to the detention center was a mystery.

"The numbers are just down for detention," Campbell said.

The state Juvenile Justice Authority does not track attendance at the 14 detention centers in Kansas.

But the number of inmates is on the rise at the 28-bed Southwest Regional Detention Center in Garden City, director Russ Jennings said.

"We're up slightly more than one kid per day from where it was last year," Jennings said. "We average around 16 kids a day. It's just enough to make it work. Any less (and) it would really be a problem for us."

Jennings said the future of the WaKeeney facility would boil down to "what the counties in northwest Kansas are willing to pay for."

"Either they're willing to have a facility and pay for it, or if they don't wish to pay, they'll incur the expenses of travel" to another detention center, Jennings said.

"You're paying for conveniences," Jennings said.

The possibility of the northwest Kansas facility closing poses a problem for law enforcement officials, who would have to transport a juvenile to another center at least a couple of hours farther away than the one in WaKeeney.

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