Angelo says the cost of running juvenile hall makes it financially unsustainable for the county to continue to support. She is recommending contracting with Sonoma County for local juvenile offenders to be moved to their Juvenile Hall.
Juvenile Hall on Low Gap Road in Ukiah has a 2.3 million dollar budget that comes out of the County General Fund. It is currently on track to exceed that amount by close to half a million dollars.
In a meeting with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission in May, Angelo explained that the current county budget would have difficulty absorbing that cost overrun, as the county has not seen the influx of cannabis dollars it thought it would be getting.
Angelo said that either the hall needs to get its costs down to $1 million or look at other options.
Currently, the Mendocino Juvenile Hall serves an average of 14 youth per day, which boils down to about $450 per child per day. Employees at the hall said they have served 150 different youth between April of last year and April of this year.
Contracting with Sonoma County, would mean transporting youth to the Sonoma County Juvenile Hall facilities, which has available beds. The proposal will become more clear after Angelo makes her proposal to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday. She was unavailable for comment as of air time for this story.
Mendocino’s is not a unique situation, but part of a trend throughout the state, where small counties are contracting with larger counties to cut costs.
Among the opponents of the closure are local juvenile justice advocates, non-profits, law enforcement, jail and juvenile hall staff, and community members.
A recently released Mendocino County grand jury report advises local officials not to close Juvenile Hall, describing such a move as “short-sighted” and driven more by a desire to cut costs than to adequately care for the county’s troubled youth. The report states that the decision to close is lacking in concern for their welfare in terms of separation and isolation from family, school and public support services that are essential to their successful rehabilitation. It describes the potential closure as “diametrically opposed to the stated policy of community-based detention that enables juveniles to better reintegrate into local support systems.”
Opponents say this is a policy issue, not just a budget issue. In addition to the Grand Jury’s concerns, they say lower children to staff ratios here leads to better care and resources. They fear youth could be exposed to, or affected by, youth offenders who have committed more serious crimes in the larger facility in Sonoma county. Additionally, law enforcement could decide to cite and release juvenile offenders rather than see them moved out of county, leaving young people on the street who need help.
Community members will have an opportunity for public comment on the issue at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday morning at 9am at the Board Chambers, room 1070. Stay tuned for upcoming stories on the issue.