Sheriff neither for or against juvenile justice supervisionPublished 12:04am Saturday, August 18, 2012
NATCHEZ — Young hooligans waiting to hear about the potential closure of the Adams County’s juvenile justice detention center will have to wait a little longer.
The Adams County Board of Supervisors has discussed this week the possibility of closing the youth detention center because of concerns it is too costly to operate. County Administrator Joe Murray’s projected budget for the center next year, which he said Thursday was based on current operating expenses, is approximately $535,000.
The board was scheduled to meet and discuss the possible closure Friday, but the meeting was canceled so Youth Court Judge John Hudson and Sheriff Chuck Mayfield could meet and discuss the possibility of having the sheriff’s office take over youth detention operations, Murray said.
Currently, an administrator under the auspices of the youth court runs the youth detention center. The administrator, Glen Arnold, retired earlier this year.
Thursday Hudson told the supervisors he was willing to do whatever it takes to keep the detention center open. Hudson has maintained that closing the center would ultimately cost more than keeping it open due to transportation and housing costs at other juvenile facilities. The judge told the supervisors it is better for the community to keep its juvenile offenders in Adams County rather than sending them elsewhere, where they can learn the ills of that area.
Mayfield said Friday afternoon he had not yet had a chance to meet with Hudson, but he believed he would before the supervisors’ next meeting. The sheriff said he is not lobbying for or against having the sheriff’s office operate the center.
“The supervisors have got to make that decision what they need to do,” Mayfield said. “If they decide they are going to keep it, they are going to propose to me — I assume — that I am going to take over it.”
The sheriff said he has one employee who currently has the training to work in juvenile detention, but others would need additional certification.
“If you work in juvenile detention, you do have to have juvenile training,” Mayfield said. “It is separate, different policies and procedures for juveniles. There is a special training for that.”
Supervisor David Carter said if the center is to be kept open, the supervisors needed to make a list of expectations for the center.
At the heart of much of the discussion surrounding the center was the fact that the inmate census for the 25-bed facility is what the supervisors consider to be below a level that can justify keeping it open. Earlier this week, the census was four males.
Hudson told the supervisors the census is often low because the youth court uses detention alternatives when possible. The supervisors have said that when the center was built they were told it would house juvenile offenders from other counties, which would help subsidize its cost, and Carter said he would like to see more juveniles housed at the center.
“We have a 25-bed juvenile detention center down there, and we want to see it utilized,” he said. “We are spending almost a half million dollars a year to operate it; I am not saying that it needs to be full, but we need to utilize it more.”
Another cost associated with the center is personnel, and Supervisor Calvin Butler — who worked as a youth detention officer in the 1990s at the former youth detention center on Madison Street — said he did not think the center needed to be fully staffed if there were not inmates in an area. Butler said when he was a detention officer, it was an on-call second job.
“My shift was Monday through Friday, 3 to 11 p.m.,” Butler said. “If they didn’t have any kids at the detention center, I didn’t have to work and I didn’t get paid. If they got kids, I was on call until 11 on the weekdays.
“They were operating the facility, but at the same time they were saving money because they weren’t operating when not needed.”
The supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Monday.