Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Detention Unit Fills Need Officials Tour Youth Facility in Hastings

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Detention Unit Fills Need Officials Tour Youth Facility in Hastings

Article excerpt

HASTINGS -- With close-cropped hair, eyes forward and hands behind their backs, 15 teenage boys were led single-file into the Hastings Youth Academy yesterday, where they will fill new beds and be schooled, counseled and locked up for weeks or months.

Some are burglars, others car thieves, others involved with drugs in some way. Some may have committed assaults.

They will join three others who arrived in late August at the first new state Department of Juvenile Justice facility in Northeast Florida in 10 years. Ten other youths will arrive in Hastings today.

In December, a separate, 52-bed youth detention facility in St. Johns County is also scheduled to be finished behind the county jail to house youths who are awaiting court.

"We need both of these facilities," said Bob Porter, chief of staff for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. "This county is growing."

Yesterday, Porter and other law enforcement officials from St. Johns and Putnam counties, as well as the St. Augustine Police Department, toured the newly opened, 62,000-square-foot center hemmed inside a 12foot fence and razor wire on more than 20 acres just east of Hastings.

Located about 45 miles south of Jacksonville on Florida 207, the $15 million Hastings Youth Academy will eventually house 160 males ages 13 to 19 who have been adjudicated guilty of crimes and court-ordered into a program.

"We won't have any kids in here who have committed murder," said John Troglauer, administrator of the facility the state classifies as a treatment program. Between 30 percent and 40 percent will have psychological problems that require medication, Troglauer said.

The academy will be operated by Securicor New Century, a private company that also runs other youth detention facilities in the state. Securicor has a contract to house 160 offenders, but the facility can hold an added 25 youths.

Youths in the Hastings Academy are considered moderate- to high-risk offenders, said Laura Emerson, a senior management analyst with the state Department of Juvenile Justice.

"These kids have been committed by the court to our custody," Emerson said. "They could be considered a risk to their community and need to be placed in a program."

Youths in the program are under detention for six to nine months, depending on their offense and a judge's order.

Troglauer said that during their stay at the facility, the youths will be schooled by St. Johns County teachers, including training with computers, and will be able to earn high school equivalency diplomas as well as have sessions with counselors and mental health workers.

Troglauer said he hopes eventually to have horticulture and culinary programs and will institute drug and alcohol programs modeled after the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step plan. …

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