Douglas County discusses new Juvenile Justice Center, overflow issues

Commissioners discuss the new juvenile justice center and its capacity
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 4:11 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County’s $27 million juvenile justice center is set to open next summer, and there is still discussion about the number of young people the new building will hold.

The transition from the old facility to the new is on the horizon and some commissioners say programming changes have to be made to reform the system and better serve troubled youth.

Douglas County’s Juvenile Justice Center has room for 64 juvenile offenders.

Data released at the Douglas County Commissioners meeting reveals right now there are more than 80 juveniles in the current facility.

Douglas County Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh saw it coming.

“This is something in the best-case scenario that should have been planned for,” Cavanaugh said. “It was certainly foreseen years ago. I specifically have raised this repeatedly over a number of years.”

“I really don’t recall a lot of conversation about the capacity from certain voices, I do recall a lot of discussion about the space to keep it at the same space,” said Commissioner Chris Rodgers.

Rodgers went back to the data, pointing out the number of admissions to the current juvenile center is decreasing. And to get a true picture of capacity, in the current center you have to look at who is in the current facility. There are around a dozen juveniles from other jurisdictions from Scotts Bluff to Sarpy County in the Douglas County Juvenile Center.

“We’re no longer going to be able to be that safety net. As you saw from the numbers we’re holding people from other places, we are everybody’s safety net. We can no longer continue to be that, it’s not best for the kids.”

There are also around two dozen youth in the Douglas County Youth Center who are wards of the state, some under probation and Department of Health and Human Services supervision.

Data also shows the average length of stay is increasing. Board Chairperson Mary Ann Borgeson says the time for point fingers and name calling is over, it’s time to work together to get better programming and solve these issues.

“That’s not helping,” Borgeson said. “What are all those people who are doing, what’s their solution other than building more beds to place our kids in?”

Commissioner P.J. Morgan says state senators could soon be discussing keeping the old facility open to help with the outside overflow.

Commissioner Rodgers also believes help should come from Lincoln and the state’s billion dollar budget surplus.

“You’re going into a session with a new unicameral and a new administration and you have a billion dollars worth of resources to play with.”

The new juvenile justice is part of a more than $100 million project that includes an annex for the county courthouse and more room for attorneys and juvenile probation offices.