Detention center asks city for funding

Published 10:48 pm Monday, August 11, 2008

Officials from the Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center have asked the Selma City Council for some help.

But an election and budget hearings will have to pass before the juvenile unit could see anything from the city.

The 20-bed unit held its grand opening last week.

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On Monday, the detention center’s director, Marcus Hannah, asked the city council to allocate $25,000 to $50,000 to help put a zero tolerance program on board and catch children before they fall through the cracks.

“That will help us out a great deal in that situation,” Hannah said.

The zero tolerance program means if a youth violates the law, he or she will be removed by officers and placed in detention by a judge. “What we’re trying to do is get the children’s attention, legally,” said Cecil Hopkins, chief probation officer.

The wayward youths would serve a weekend term to get a sense of the consequences of their actions, Hannah said.

Currently, the city does not contribute to the finances of the center.

Dallas County has budgeted more than $272,000 for the detention center for lodging youths, paying staff salaries and paying travel expenses and overtime for police officers.

The Department of Youth Services will take care of some of the budget costs, paying $800 per bed. The detention center also receives $17,620 from the tobacco fund to help.

The allocation allows for only one instructor, Hannah said, but the center has hired part-time teachers to come out and help.

Hannah pointed to other counties — Montgomery and Baldwin — which work with cities to help support their juvenile services.

Council member Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said to compare Montgomery and Baldwin counties to Dallas County and Selma seems similar to comparing two different budgets. Those two areas are larger than Dallas County and Selma.

Also, Crenshaw said the council would have to consider giving money to the Boot Camp operated in Dallas County because it helps teenagers as well.

“Practically, we need to look at the situation” she said.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. said he is fully supportive of the center. One of the reasons the city cannot enforce its curfew for teenagers is a lack of enforcement. He asked if the detention center would house curfew breakers.

Replied Hannah, “That’s part of that zero tolerance program.”

Detention officials have set aside a building to help with the program.

Perkins answered, “That would be a huge benefit.”