In the year 2000, in Pima County, 9,787 juveniles were referred to the juvenile court system and 361 of those referrals resulted in commitment to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections. Throughout the early 2000’s the number of detained juveniles continued to increase rapidly. To keep up with this increase, Pima County was forced to expand its detention center by adding 306 new beds.
Over the past ten years, however, juvenile detention rates in Tucson have been cut in half allowing the center to make better use of the added space.
Why the change?
Community participants established a risk assessment to determine the kids who would benefit most from being detained and those who would not. Pima County is also focusing its attention on rehabilitating its youth. For instance, detention officers have become more like mentors providing guidance and support to the kids. As for the extra space at the facility, juveniles at the center have added a community garden and transformed an old cellblock into a library filled with books and computers. Many of the juveniles at the center are even earning their GED’s.
Deputy Court Administrator Dodie Ledbetter said, “It’s really a tremendous boon to the kids and their families in the detention center. We are really able to focus on their needs so that we can reduce their risk in the community once they’re released, by taking care of medical, mental health issues and doing appropriate assessments.”
As for those juveniles diverted away from detention, the system provides them with the support of probation officers and community programs.
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