New Juvenile Detention Center

By: Melissa Reynolds
By: Melissa Reynolds

The current juvenile detention center is nearly 40 years old. It serves four cities and five counties from Rockingham to Bath. Officials say the demand on the system is more than the building can bear.

Most of the time, the rooms are full.

"Overcrowded means you have two kids to a room when there should only be one to a room and that sort of thing runs lots of costs," Tim Smith says.

The number of probation officers dealing with offenders has also doubled.

"Our caseloads seem to become increasingly bigger as the years go on and we're seeing more youth with pretty serious mental health issues," Tim Showalter says.

That's why a bigger $8 million facility is being built.

"It should serve the needs of the communities we serve for the next 50 years," Smith says.

The new center may not look like much now, but it'll have twice as many beds and five times as many classrooms and visitation rooms, plus, a new layout.

"The new design will be in pods of 10 which gives you a chance to separate the kids by age a lot better and also by the severity of the offense," Smith says.

Everyone involved agrees it's overdue.

"The more folks you have on an overburdened system really affects the quality of the resources that you get," Showalter says.

But state cuts to prevention methods could make a bad situation worse.

"I believe we're going to see a heavier outlay with youngsters in the correctional center because we don't have the funds to get the resources," Showalter says.

There is hope; more beds in the new facility mean more state money. And while the jurisdictions will pay for most of the center, the state will also pitch in.

The new juvenile detention center should be open by July 1.

50 North Main Street Harrisonburg, VA 22801 540-433-9191 - Switchboard 540-433- 4028 - Fax 540-433-2700 - News Fax

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