The Albany County Commission approved a grant application for about $70,500 on Tuesday to provide funding to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office for equipment needed for keeping track of juvenile offenders.
Albany County Grants Manager Tai Wright said the grant would provide the county with funding for the attorney’s office to keep track of juvenile court cases, provide them with avenues to prevent future incidents and attempt to keep them out of juvenile detention facilities. The funds could also be used to pay for housing juvenile offenders in detention centers if other methods or intervention are unsuccessful.
“The funding specifically in this application would support the housing of juvenile defendants and we are requesting an amount of $19,890 for that line item,” Wright said. “(The grant) would also support youth diversion services programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters and electronic monitoring, which provides another alternative of supervision to the juvenile.”
Placing youth offenders into juvenile detention facilities could easily use the majority of the grant and has in the past, she said. Because of federal guidelines, and the way the Albany County Detention Center is set up, youth offenders from Albany County are transported to facilities in Laramie and Natrona counties.
“This grant supported the housing, and oftentimes the transportation, of juveniles to those detention centers,” Wright said. “Per federal guidelines, you’re unable to house juveniles in adult facilities. Because of the way our Albany County Detention Center is set up, we are unable to house them at that facility.”
Juvenile detention centers charge counties a daily fee for housing offenders from different counties, she said. When they are there for an extended period of time, the bill can become big enough majority of the grant is spent on one person.
“Those housing facilities charge us about $195 a day to house (a single juvenile),” Wright said. “We plan for as much as we possibly can to utilize these grants and all it takes. We have seen last year is one particular juvenile who is housed for a number of days to eat up our entire budget, which is the case in this current fiscal year.”
Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said most of the time the county and the youth offenders are able to find alternative ways to prevent them from being sent to a detention facility, but there are cases where offenders are brought to the facilities.
“We are using and purchasing ankle monitors, and they are working fabulously,” Trent said. “We are trying to provide alternatives before we reach the incarceration.”
Part of the reason housing offenders affects the county in these facilities, is because they are not reimbursed by organizations that are responsible for them or the states that placed them there.
“The majority of inmates … that were held, were from the Cathedral Home (for Children),” Trent said. “We are not receiving reimbursement from the Cathedral Home, even though these are out-of-state children. I am working with the state, and the state is going to provide revised contracts so when they come in, they have to reimburse us.”
The Cathedral Home provides youth with a chance to resolve issues they might have. She said the reason why more youth offenders are placed in juvenile detention centers than other places is because there isn’t anywhere else to house them if they run away or commit an act of violence against the facility.
“Frequently, we receive incidents that occur at the Cathedral Home … and they are already in a residential treatment but they are running away or they have been violent toward staff and in those situations,” Trent said. “Because they are in an environment already in residential treatment and they may have committed violent offense … against other people within residential treatment, the next level would be detention.”
Cathedral Home Executive Director Nicole Hauser was unable to comment on the juvenile offenders being moved from the Cathedral Home to detention facilities, but did say in 2017 their residential service served 119 youth. She said data collected by the house shows participants significantly reduce areas of risk and increase their academic profile.
“(The juveniles) live on campus, we have a fully accredited school so they will attend school, either recover credits or catch up on credits, we have the ability to offer high school diplomas,” Hauser said. “They engage in a lot of therapy so we have individual clinicians that work with them and individual counseling, we offer a variety of group counseling settings and family therapy.”