Budget cutbacks catch up with juvenile justice system

SPOKANE - Budget cutbacks have caught up with Spokane's juvenile justice system where officials are warning a lack of staff could lead to more violence behind bars.

During the last year detention services lost 14 positions, which is also hurting the county's ability to rehabilitate teenage offenders before they pursue a life time of crime.

Spokane's juvenile detention facility wouldn't need more staff if corrections officers could simply lock them in their cells 24 hours a day but no one wants a 13 year old kid caged up like a wild animal. That's why putting youngsters back on the straight and narrow with lot of counseling is a very labor intensive project.

?Generally what we have to do is not only intervene in this kid's life we have to intervene in the parent's life too and have to provide support to them for lots of different reasons and sometimes we have to deal with the deficits they have too,? Spokane Superior Court Judge Neal Reilly said.

That's why juvenile court officials are asking county commissioners to rehire four corrections or probation officers laid off during recent budget cuts. They also want funding for a new control booth because the 30-year-old system in place is no longer reliably opening and closing security doors in the detention facility.

?We're concerned that we have enough people to monitor all these kid because we worried not only about the safety of our staff but also the safety of the kids we have down there too,? Judge Reilly said.

Court officials don't expect to get back all of the $1.5 Million slashed from their budget since last year but they warn not spending money on these troubled teens now will cost the community twice as much if they pursue a life of crime as adults.

?It?s much more expensive to keep these kids in detention, much more expensive than to do the alternative methodologies of dealing with the children but you know we still have to have employees to do it we money for the programming,? Judge Reilly said.