Juvenile Detention Center busy already

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center has operated less than a week, and already it has children in its beds.

Detention center director Marcus Hannah reported to the Dallas County Commission this week that three juveniles had come in, with more on the way.

Now officials want to implement a plan to make youths immediately see the consequences of wrongdoing.

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A zero tolerance program might curb the number of young people that make their way through the gated doors.

Probate Judge Bob Armstrong said this type of program could have prevented incidents like the fights that broke out last school year at Southside High. One of them involved students who fought a former football coach.

“We’ve been meeting in the summer to discuss what we could do to be proactive so we don’t have those problems this year,” said Armstrong, who heads Dallas County’s Children’s Policy Council. “One of the things (chief probation officer) Cecil Hopkins brought to us was a zero tolerance policy. If kids fight or if they commit delinquent acts in the school, they are immediately going to be taken to the detention center and detained.”

Following that, a probable cause hearing with a juvenile probation officer will determine whether authorities file charges.

Children have to be detained for three hours and segregated from the general population before the hearing. That will require an extra staff member and a holding cell, which the detention center does not have.

The center has a trailer it set aside to serve as the holding cell. It will cost between $8,000 and $10,000 to meet Department of Youth Services standards. That includes $1,800 for a camera, $900 for a fence and running water and electricity.

Hannah and Armstrong said there are no definite plans to go ahead with the program.