New programs explored to reach at-risk youths beyond incarceration
Logan County leaders decided Tuesday to shut down its local juvenile detention facility at 104 S. Madriver St. by the end of the year and look at ways to expand local programs for the area’s troubled youth.
It is a decision that comes after 2 1/2 years exploring options to keep the almost 20-year-old Logan County Juvenile Detention Center open.
In the end, local leaders concluded it would be better use of taxpayer money to shut it down on Dec. 31 and use some of the savings to explore alternative educational options and expand mental health counseling for youths and parental coaching options.
Logan County Commissioners Paul Benedetti, Joe Antram and Mark Robinson voted unanimously in favor of the closure and moving ahead with a $501,315 annual agreement with the Central Ohio Youth Center in Marysville.
Logan County Family Court Judge Kim Kellogg-Martin said the court recognized closing the local detention center was inevitable.
“Judge Natasha Kennedy and myself saw the handwriting on the wall and we have been meeting with law enforcement, educators and staff at COYC in preparation for the move,” she said. “The COYC staff are great, by the way, and they will be able to incorporate our programming into theirs.
“We will still have a detention facility; it just won’t be in our backyard.”
Getting out of the detention business does open the door for alternative educational use of the current facility and introduction of additional programs to help families, the judge noted.
Helping at-risk children and their families is the ultimate goal, the commissioners said.
“As a retired educator, spending my whole career and life in Logan County,” Antram said, “it was crucial that in this process we had exhausted all other possibilities for serving troubled students here.
“I am confident we did that and that this alternative will meet the needs of our troubled students in the future.”
Commissioner Paul Benedetti agreed that the focus, from the onset, has been the best solution for the county’s children.
“The JDC has been an asset for us in the past,” he said, “and the staff have consistently met the Ohio Department of Youth Service standards for operating a juvenile facility.
“However, guidance for the juvenile courts in Ohio no longer considers detention as the best option for most juvenile offenders. This forces us as a community to confront the costs of maintaining our JDC.
“Faced with proposed 2022 budgets of more than $1.1 million to operate our JDC, along with a five-year average daily population of eight detainees, it is apparent we cannot sustain our facility. Returning to the Central Ohio Youth Center makes good financial sense.”
Fiscally, it is the responsible thing to do, Robinson added.
“We will be getting the same services, if not better than what we are currently providing,” he said. “You’ll have the synergies and economy of scale of a five-county facility versus us by ourselves.”
The JDC has been staffed and managed by the Logan County Sheriff’s Office since it opened in 2002. It was rated for a maximum capacity of 36 juveniles and at times took in detainees from other counties.
To continue operating the JDC, Sheriff Randall Dodds presented a 2022 budget of $1.4 million, but he also noted he has had trouble staffing the JDC and the Logan County Jail, a facility he is required by law to operate.
The family court explored an idea of cutting back to one cell block and no more than 10 delinquents a day. Its proposed budget was more than $1.1 million.
“We can take a portion of the operational savings to fund diversionary programs to keep our youth out of the juvenile court system,” Benedetti said.
For Judge Kennedy, the decision is bittersweet.
“It was much more to the youth and community than just a detention center,” she said. “It was an integral part of the Logan County Family Court. Our local clergy, counselors, educators and correctional officers made lasting impressions on the juveniles who came into contact with it.”
As the judges looks to the future, they see reductions in detention costs opening the way to expand programs to help at-risk children and families.
Both hope the facility can be adapted into a center for education, therapy, work training and temporary sanctuary.
“The schools are struggling with students who are often time products of a dysfunctional environment,” she said. “They need a place where they can work more intensively with those students who have fallen behind and have just given up.”
Much of the dysfunction is a result of parents who are not prepared for parenthood, Judge Kellogg-Martin said. Rather than learn proper discipline techniques or how to deal with a child’s outburst, they call law enforcement and have their child hauled off to JDC, she said.
“This will actually hold parents more accountable,” Judge Kellogg-Martin said. “They will be responsible for going to Marysville to visit their child and to pick them up upon their release. They’re going to have to think about that before calling for law enforcement’s help.”
The family court has been working with the Logan County Children’s Services to provide home-based coaching for parents to help cope with raising and disciplining children, she said, and it has embraced a youth advocacy program to place children in better home environments when necessary.
The court and LCCS also might explore using part of the JDC for a cool down facility to help families deescalate household strife.
“In my job and in this process, it has been satisfying to collaborate with the other community members,” Judge Kellogg-Martin said. “To know we are able to come together, sit at the table and work at better ways to help our youth.”
Judge Kennedy agreed, stating, “We must join together as a community to help our youth before they ever enter a detention facility.”