Mar 13, 2013 10:37 AM by Ryan Haarer
TUCSON- Fewer children are spending time in detention facilities across the state. In fact rates have been cut in half over the last decade and now Pima County is using the extra resources to help keep it that way.
Kids were entering the detention facility at such a rapid rate in the early 2000's that the county actually expanded the center. A rising crime rate caused an expansion of beds to 306. Community stakeholders recognized a problem and began talking detention reform. The result was the adoption of a risk assessment used to determine if confinement was right for certain kids.
That change of philosophy led to a smaller population and more resources dedicated to rehabilitation. Kids there have now turned old restraint tables into a community garden. An old cell block is now a library packed with books and computers and many are now earning their GED.
"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, doing appropriate assessments," said Dodie Ledbetter, Deputy Court Administrator.
The nature of detention officers have changed as well. Officers are more like mentors who become a support system for the kids who need guidance. Those who are diverted away from the facility still get help from probation officers and other community programs.
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