“The bottom line is making sure the kids that are risks to society are being detained, and those who are not, are not,” said Adams County Judge John Hudson. He was named chairman of the group. Rankin County Court Judge Thomas Broome of Brandon is vice-chairman.
The bottom line is also the costs to you. The release acknowledges that there are right now only 16 juvenile detention centers operating in Mississippi. That's because smaller counties can't afford to operate them. The counties that do not have their own stand-alone lock-ups for youth have to transport their offenders to the counties that do have them and then pay those counties to house the prisoners.
The news release did not mention the private facilities, like the Walnut Grove Youth Detention Center, which has come under fire for conditions on the inside. Allegations at some private facilities have including staff allowing gang fights to go on, staff beating the offenders and staff having sexual relationships with offenders. Some guards in those private youth prisons have also received long sentences for providing cell phones to the inmates.
While it was unclear if the Task Force would address problems with the private facilities, coming up with alternatives to incarceration would very likely reduce the need to depend on contracted lock-ups.
Some of the alternatives that may be looked at include ankle bracelets, GPS tracking and reporting to a location with supervised activities. The supervision would be intensive, but would not involve placing non-violent offenders, who are not considered a risk, on the inside.
As far as determining which ones would be a risk, the news release said, "Adams, Harrison, Leflore, Rankin and Washington counties participate in the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, JDAI, a national program which uses a systematic approach to evaluate all cases to determine whether a juvenile should be detained. A point system takes into account the nature and seriousness of the offense and other factors. The point score on the risk assessment determines who should be detained, released or supervised in an alternative program."
The Task Force will meet at 11 a.m. Oct. 5 at the Jefferson Street United Methodist Church at 511 Jefferson Street in Natchez.
The rest of the news release:
Adams, Hinds and Rankin counties, among others, have used GPS tracking via ankle bracelets as a way to monitor juveniles who have gotten in trouble, without confining them.
“It’s been a huge success in reducing the number of youth placed in detention,” Judge Hudson said of the GPS system in Adams County. However, the Adams County program is about to run out of money. It operated on a grant that runs out in October. “We are working to try to find ways to continue the system because it’s worked tremendously,” Judge Hudson said.
Judge Broome added, “The Task Force will be working to protect public safety and provide safe facilities to help our kids learn from their mistakes. We want to appropriately use detention and find community services for those who need it. Standards will benefit the counties and taxpayers by maximizing our local, state and federal resources.”
The Task Force includes youth court judges, county supervisors, detention center administrators, public defenders, a sheriff, county administrators, representatives from state Department of Education, a representative from the office of the Attorney General, a representative from the Department of Mental Health and a representative from the Juvenile Facilities Monitoring Unit.
Other members of the Task Force are: Leflore County Court Judge Kevin Adams, Greenwood; Washington County Court Judge Vernita Johnson, Greenville; Forrest County Court Judge Michael McPhail, Hattiesburg; DeSoto County Court Judge Celeste Wilson, Hernando; Assistant Attorney General and JDAI State Co-Coordinator Patricia Marshall, Ridgeland; State Public Defender Leslie Lee, Jackson; Washington County Youth Court Public Defender Errick D. Simmons, Greenville; Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services Director James V. Maccarone, Jackson; Department of Mental Health Division of Children and Youth Services Director Sandra Parks, Jackson; Adams County Juvenile Detention Center Director Glen Arnold, Natchez; Leflore County Juvenile Detention Center Director Robert Fitzpatrick, Greenwood; Rankin County Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Administrator E. B. Fox, Pelahatchie; Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center Director Chris Gilbert, Pascagoula; Rankin County Sheriff’s Office Attorney Richard Lawrence, Brandon; Department of Public Safety Juvenile Facilities Monitoring Unit Director Donald Beard, Ridgeland; Hinds County Sheriff Tyrone Lewis, Jackson; Mississippi Security Police President Nicky Maxwell, Pascagoula; Pike County Supervisor Luke Brewer, Magnolia; Leflore County Supervisor Anjuan Brown, Greenwood; Lamar County Administrator Chuck Bennett, Purvis; Lauderdale County Administrator Joe McCraney, Meridian; and Department of Education Office of Compulsory School Attendance Enforcement, Alternative Education/GED and Counseling Bureau Director Toni Kersh, Jackson.