Concerns grow over capacity at new Douglas County Youth Center

Concerns are being raised over capacity limits at the new Douglas County Youth Center.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 6:50 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Recent reports denote there are 77 young offenders housed in the current Douglas County Youth Center.

In a meeting Thursday morning, county officials broke down the stats that reveal some of the more serious young offenders have been there for over a year.

“When you look at the youths that are charged in our adult court system, we have seven youths who have been there over a year, and we have 10 youths who have been there between six months and a year,” said Kim Hawekotte with the county. “That’s over 50% of the youth in the adult court system that have been there for that length of (time).”

The Douglas County Sheriff sent a message that he’s concerned that the 64-bed youth center won’t be big enough, and arresting agencies will need to find lockups for juveniles outside the area.

“Could be Sarpy County, could be Lancaster,” said Kristopher Peterson with the sheriff’s office. “Could be up in Woodbury County in Sioux City about an hour and a half away from Omaha. What that’s going to do is cause the sheriff’s office to go back to that detention facility, wherever that facility might be, transport that juvenile back here for a detention hearing and all other hearings until that juvenile is released.”

The sheriff’s office believes that will affect staffing at the courthouse and run up transportation and overtime costs.

Douglas County Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson says they’re looking at data and working with providers to move the system in a more efficient manner.

“You saw the numbers,” she said. “Kids are sitting there and a lot of those kids aren’t the kids they’re talking about, but they need to be moved on to programs and services that can help. Leaving them sitting in a locked-up detention center doesn’t help anybody.”

Officials say the new Douglas County Justice Center is operational, but not yet open to the public. There’s been plenty of discussion on whether or not one part of the facility is sufficient.

The new youth center has a move-in date slated for the first week in July. County officials plan to start operations in the new facility come November.