Consider detention center

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2006

Officials of Dallas County are in agreement that the area needs a Youth Detention Center.

Currently, juvenile offenders are sent to Hale County or Baldwin County to be housed, at a cost to the county of about $250,000 a year.

The plan is to renovate property on the west side of the Dallas County jail – the Varner Education and Training Facility (VET, also known as boot camp) – so that it meets state requirements for a detention center.

The center would house juveniles 17 and younger – 12 males, eight females – sentenced to detention for committing delinquent acts.

The goal is to have the facility up and running within a year.

Dallas County has the worst rate of violent juvenile crime in the state, according to statistics compiled by the Administrative Office of Courts in Montgomery.

According to District Judge Bob Armstrong, these numbers are so high as a result of juveniles committing simple assaults, such as fighting.

Because Dallas County does not currently have a detention center, other options must be sought.

According to officials, Hale County is Dallas County’s primary detention facility, costing the county roughly $250,000 per year.

The facility charges $85 per day, per juvenile.

The Baldwin County facility charges $92.

Although the Hale County facility is the regional facility, space isn’t always available,

therefore, an alternative facility must be sought and that can prove to be a difficult task – not to mention costly.

Not only is outsourcing costly for the county, it can be economically and emotionally taxing for the families of the delinquents. Many Selma/Dallas County families cannot visit their children if they are in Hale or Baldwin counties.

Officials should consider the cost of a detention center in Selma, although as Judge Armstrong stated, cost is not the only issue – it’s also about taking care of local youth by keeping them in the community.