WILMINGTON — A detention center for juvenile offenders is the goal of an application for state funds submitted by the Clinton County Juvenile Court judge.
Presently, local youths are transported to a facility in Troy, Ohio, an hour and a half away, said Clinton County Juvenile Court Judge Chad L. Carey.
The logistics of that distance are “unacceptable, as far as I’m concerned,” Carey said in an interview. Those logistics adversely affect the parents of the detained youths and the sheriff’s office which transports the juveniles to the Troy location, he said.
What Carey envisions at this point is a new 24-bed facility that would house juveniles from Clinton, Fayette, Highland and Brown counties, none of which currently has a juvenile detention facility.
“I hope to do something with all four [counties] of us,” the judge said. “I don’t really care where it ends up. Whether it’s built here or Hillsboro or Washington Court House or Brown County, just so we have something that’s a lot closer we can all utilize.”
Carey, who is in his first year on the juvenile court bench, said he learned about the grant shortly before the application deadline and went ahead and applied without getting signatures from the Clinton County commissioners “to get our foot in the door.”
“I know grants come and go. It may go away next year,” added the judge.
The Ohio Department of Youth Services grant, if awarded, pays up to 60 percent of a construction project.
Clinton County Commissioner Mike Curry this week said if the operational aspect of a juvenile detention center can be made to work, then that would be great, “but now we don’t know [that it can be made to work].”
At this juncture there are too many questions with unknown answers, said Curry, who added, “I’m not saying it’s not needed.”
Curry sounded a note of caution if the undertaking would rely on an income stream from other counties renting beds.
According to Curry, when the Clinton County Jail was built for adult inmates, revenue was expected to come in from outside agencies that utilized cells for a fee.
The number of Clinton County prisoners kept climbing until there were no beds at the jail to rent out, according to Curry.
That meant it became the total responsibility of Clinton County to fund all expenses involved in staffing and operating the jail for adults, he said.
Curry said he thinks one of the main reasons a sales tax increase in Clinton County was necessary is because there was no jail-generated revenue as anticipated, but the cost of running a jail remained intact.
The average number of Clinton County juveniles in detention, at any one time, is four or five, according to Carey. A 24-bed facility, he said, can take in youths from the four counties “and then some.”
Clinton County spends about $150,000 per year for juvenile detention outside the county, said the judge.
If a facility is built and if it is located in Clinton County, Carey expects it to be on Davids Drive, near but not adjoining the adult jail.
“We just need one [juvenile detention center]. The children need it, the county needs it, other counties need it,” Carey said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.