Jackson County may soon end a program designed to encourage other counties to send juveniles they need detained to the 28-bed juvenile center in Brownstown.
The county receives $100 a day for housing juveniles from other counties, and that money goes into the county general fund to help pay for the center’s operations.
During the past couple of years, Jackson County has been providing free transportation for juvenile detainees for some counties not adjacent to Jackson County, including Montgomery and Monroe. It’s an effort to keep the center full and generating revenue, center director Steve Redicker said.
Revenue from all out-of-county juvenile detainees, including those brought to the center by other counties, was $572,000 in 2015 and $334,000 in 2014. It’s already $234,900 through the first six months of this year.
The center’s budget is $866,978. The budget in 2015 was $863,666.
The free transportation, however, may come to an end thanks to an incident in late June in which a detention center officer was attacked by a girl he was transporting from Monroe County.
Officer Tony Fleetwood escaped serious injury after the attack by the female, who was being held on Monroe County charges of auto theft and failure to appear. The attack occurred on U.S. 50 nearly 10 miles west of Brownstown.
After the June 26 incident, the girl faced local charges of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon, criminal recklessness and battery on a police officer with injury.
During the attack, the girl was able to free herself from her “belly belt” and put it around Fleetwood’s neck as he drove. She later stabbed him with a pencil after he stopped the vehicle and was attempting to restrain her. Three passers-by stopped to assist.
On Tuesday night, Redicker told county commissioners the center’s nine-member advisory board had made the decision to eliminate the center’s program to provide transportation from nearby counties.
Commissioner Jerry Hounshel, who is a member of the center’s advisory board, said at this time, Jackson County is probably the only county in the state to transport juvenile detainees for other counties.
He said he supports the decision to cease transferring those juveniles.
“We may lose some (detainees), but the safety of correctional officers and juvenile detainees is first and foremost,” Hounshel said. “Their safety is compromised.”
He said Jackson County also is getting the worst juvenile offenders from other counties.
Redicker told commissioners he believes the county can continue the program and do it safely.
He said there are things that can be done to make the transfers safer, including providing additional training to officers.
“I do agree our number one priority has to be safety,” he said. “There is a risk every time you walk into that building. We try to minimize the risk as much as you can.”
Redicker later said the incident involving Fleetwood was isolated and nothing similar to that had happened in the past. The juvenile center opened in the summer of 2000.
Redicker said Ripley, Franklin and Switzerland counties might start sending their juvenile detainees to Dearborn County’s juvenile center if Jackson County stopped the transportation program, although Dearborn County is considering downsizing its center.
He also said Montgomery County probably wouldn’t have someone drive that far to bring a juvenile here.
Matt Reedy, commissioner president, asked Redicker if he could find out more information about Dearborn County’s plans because it’s the only center in the southeastern corner of the state. That might force some counties to send their juveniles to Jackson County, which is closest to Dearborn County.
Redicker said he would like commissioners to study the issue before making a final decision about the transport program at their meeting at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 16. He also offered to meet with some of them to discuss the issue beforehand.
“I just wanted you to have information about the program,” he said. “I will do whatever you decide.”