Citing overcrowding in the adult section of the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center, county officials have decided to place the small juvenile population in other facilities.
“Right now we’re between 30 and 50 adults above our maximum capacity of 176 beds,” said Scotts Bluff County Board Chairman Mark Masterton. “We about a 30 bed juvenile facility holding four or five inmates. They take up an entire section of our jail where we could put another 28 adults.”
Because the juvenile section is a locked facility, the county asked permission from the state to move 28 female adults into that section. The county only holds the juvenile population for the state probation office, so the state would be responsible for transferring the juveniles to other facilities.
“To say we’re closing down the juvenile facility isn’t entirely correct,” Masterton. “We’re suspending services temporarily until we can figure out how to deal with our overcrowding situation.”
In recent years, the Legislature has been moving more toward keeping juveniles incarcerated closer to their homes in staff secure, rather than locked secure facilities.
Masterton said a major contributor to overcrowding is the classification system that keeps certain inmates away from others. The type of crimes committed makes segregation of inmates necessary. That compromises the ability of the detention center to operate at maximum capacity and still meet state jail standards.
“This is a temporary solution,” Masterton said. “Long term, we have lots of options. We can build another juvenile facility, move the juveniles back into the current facility, or maybe add another pod onto the adult section. We could even look at getting rid of juvenile entirely and have the state assign them to other facilities.”
When the detention center was built, it was projected to last 25 years. It was full in five. “It’s disheartening to spend that much money on a facility to have it fill up this quickly,” Masterton said. “If the courts tell us to put them in jail, that’s what we have to do. Ultimately, it's the taxpayers who pick up the bill.”