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Juvenile department detainees will soon be making longer trips
Deschutes County’s need for additional adult jail space results in the change
November 01, 2012
A recent decision made by Deschutes County commissioners will likely mean Crook County ships its juvenile department detainees longer distances starting next summer.
Because they lack their own detention center, Crook County currently ships its juveniles to Deschutes County.
However, to provide more jail space, Deschutes County commissioners approved a plan that allows law enforcement to house additional adult inmates in their existing juvenile detention center. As a result, the juvenile detention center will occupy a smaller facility, limiting the number of out-of-county juveniles they can hold. The plan takes effect on July 1, 2013.
The change will force Crook County to transport juveniles as far away as The Dalles or Klamath Falls. Jefferson, Harney, and Grant counties also rely on the Deschutes County facility and face a similar predicament.
Crook County Juvenile Department Director Debra Patterson said the longer drives mean more fuel expense and more vehicle wear and tear. Furthermore, she does not especially like the prospect of driving to The Dalles more often.
“Have you ever driven down the Maupin grade at 3 a.m., when there is five feet of snow? It’s not fun to drive down at noon in good weather. It’s a tough drive.”
According to Deschutes County’s Community Justice Director Ken Hale, their existing juvenile detention center consists of four, 12-cell pods. They only use two of those pods. Consequently, they plan to build a smaller juvenile facility that better suits their needs — but reduces or eliminates space for out-of-county juveniles.
“We have to finance what we can finance to meet our needs,” Hale explained. “If we have the availability to take courtesy holds from others because we have vacancies that we are already staffing for, that’s one thing. But we are not going to plan and build and staff for additional capacity, because we have to pay for it.”
Deschutes County will not complete a new building for about three years, Hale said. However, the counties that rely on the current facility have less time than that to find a solution, because the juvenile department has to change its location in eight months. Neither of its temporary options leaves enough room for out-of-county juveniles.
“One of the two options we have kind of talked about with the commission gives us four rooms and if we double-bunk, we could have six guys in it,” Hale said. “The other option (is) the downtown facility, the old detention center, (which) has seven single-cell rooms plus one isolation holding cell.”
To help Crook County and other communities remedy the situation, some counties east of the Cascades are brainstorming ways to ease the transportation burden.
“I was at a meeting last week and we talked about developing some kind of transportation system,” Patterson said. “The juvenile director in Wasco County said, ‘Well, maybe we can work out some kind of arrangement where we can meet in Maupin and trade kids.’”
In addition, before transporting juveniles to The Dalles, Patterson may check with the Jefferson County juvenile department to see if they have any detainees they need to send to the same location.
“It’s amazing that on this side of the mountains . . . we have always worked together,” she said. “This is just one more time where those partnerships are going to come into play.”
Whether or not the combined transportation efforts come to fruition remains to be seen, but either way, Patterson said she will ensure the juveniles get to where they need to go.
“We still understand that our main purpose is public safety,” she said. “And if a youth needs a place in detention, we’re going to do it — even if that means going to NORCOR (in The Dalles) or driving to Klamath Falls, which we have done in the middle of the night.”