Douglas County commissioners vote on terminating contract to provide detention services

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners want to terminate current contracts with the state and want them to do more when dealing with youth on probation.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 4:22 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County is working to update a deal with State Probation and the U.S. Marshall Service to provide detention services in the Douglas County Youth Center.

While negotiations are ongoing, commissioners want to terminate their current contracts with the two entities. Commissioners want the state to do more when dealing with youth on probation.

The first resolution before the commission was to terminate the current contract with State Probation, while the county negotiates a deal to put Douglas County youth first, instead of taking youth from across the state.

Douglas County commissioners spent Tuesday's meeting debating terminating contracts with the state and the U.S. Marshals in relation to detained youth.

Douglas County Commissioner James Cavanaugh is a strong no vote.

“What is going to play out here is you’re going to have two youth centers, you just head it two youth centers, much more cost to you the taxpayers,” Cavanaugh said.

Commissioner Mike Friend is also dead set against terminating the contract with State Probation right away.

“One of the county’s chief responsibilities is public safety and that infrastructure is what we have to promote that idea and also implement it,” Friend said. “So it’s my contention that we at least need to look maybe out a year, maybe out six months, maybe out 12 months to work on many of these issues.”

Commissioner Maureen Boyle says something needs to be done. Because juveniles from across the state are adding numbers to Douglas County’s youth detention numbers.

“The biggest concern about this whole thing is the process really has to do with the fact that it seems like the Douglas County Youth Center has been like a collection center for kids when nobody else knows what to do with them,” Boyle said. “There has to be a more efficient way to get them the help they need, the care they need, the programming of through the courts or whatever the case may be.”

Commissioner Chris Rodgers says that the point to get the State of Nebraska to do more, and terminating the current contract gives the county some leverage.

“And this contract is going to give you the option to play on terms,” Rodgers said. “I’m going to just tell you in the last two weeks probation has admitted they need more services. I’ve been on the call and it’s moved light years in regards to what they can do.”

Commissioners voted four to two to terminate the contract to provide detention services with the state and the U.S. Marshalls Office. With Commissioners Friend and Cavanaugh voting no, Commissioner Roger Garcia did not vote. Commissioners also voted to address the detention capacity in the Douglas County Youth Facility.

Commissioner Rodgers says Lancaster County Juvenile Detention sends its overflow juveniles to Douglas County because Lancaster County has established capacity limits today. Commissioners voted to set capacity limits in Douglas County by January 1, 2024.

The current contracts with the state and U.S. Marshalls expire in August.

Commissioners also voted to address the cost of housing youth in the Douglas County Youth Center. They say the current rate does not reflect the actual cost.