Juvenile Detention Center fullPosted: Updated:
KENNEWICK, Wash. - Budget cuts continue to affect people all across our area including kids who get in trouble.
In fact, since December, 2009 over 180 kids have been let out early. The main reason is because the detention center was forced to cut staff from 22 to 19. This led to a reduction in bed capacity only allowing 35 children at one time. Now, administrators have to evaluate kids on a case-by-case basis to decide who they can let out to open up space. A message they don't necessarily want kids to hear. "It says to them, we told you this behavior was wrong, it was a crime, there's a punishment as a result to that crime and this is what you are going to do and then have to turn around and say to them we can't have you serve out that time," Sharon Paradis Juvenile Department Administrator.
Paradis says they've been sending more kids to a work crew program since the budget cuts. The program allows kids to give back to the community and understand what they did wrong, without being locked up.
Another problem they are seeing is gang involvement in youth. Administrators say out of the 500 plus kids on probation over a 100 of them are gang affiliated. And in November of last year, of the 27 kids that were in detention center, 18 of them were known gang members "The fact that we are releasing kids early I think it exacerbates the problem, it increases the likely hood that older adult gang members are going to encouraging young gang members to be criminally involved."
Paradis says they're currently working on a community program that would help kids stay away from gang involvement. It would focus on intervention, pre-vention, suppression and life after juvenile detention. She also adds that they've just applied for a federal grant to help fund the program.