Juvenile detention center looking for reforms

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 18, 2009

NATCHEZ — The Adams County Juvenile Detention Center recently became part of a pilot program aimed at reforming juvenile detention in Mississippi and across the country.

An official partnership between the facility and the Anne E. Casey Foundation, a public policy organization, was announced last week, Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson said.

“I think the program has the potential to do a great deal of good for these young people and the entire community,” Hudson said.

Email newsletter signup

Hudson said one of the first, and most important, goals of the new program will be to decide if young people recommended for detention are actually eligible for detention.

Hudson said some calls requesting the incarceration of young people are for those that should not be locked up at all.

One aspect of the reform project will develop a set of criteria that must be met before a young person can be incarcerated.

Thom Gimble, a Casey Foundation liaison, said once the criteria are established they’ll be presented to the school board and local law enforcement officials.

Hudson said the most basic criteria to be met is that a child must present a danger to either themselves or the community.

“Some kids do not need to be locked up and do not to be in detention,” Hudson said.

Unlike some large cities, Adams County does not jail young people for status offenses, crimes that would not be crimes but for the age of the offender.

But the new program will do more than keep unqualified offenders out of detention; it will make the time in detention more productive for those who do qualify.

“We do not want to make this fun,” Hudson said. “But if they have to be here, we want the time to at least be productive.”

Gimble said while the detention center already has an educational program in place, anger management and counseling programs to better socialize young people could be developed in the future.

“This is an opportunity to make some positive changes,” Gimble said. “We want to do more than just rehabilitate.”