Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Juvenile Detention Center in Works

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Juvenile Detention Center in Works

Article excerpt

State and local authorities are working together to establish a

new 52-bed juvenile detention facility in Clay County, a move

that could end the need to transport youths to a regional

detention center in Jacksonville.

The proposal, endorsed by the Clay County Juvenile Justice

Council this week, drew cheers from law enforcement officials

and a top administrator in the state Juvenile Justice

Department.

"If somebody will donate us 15 to 20 acres we could certainly

accommodate 52 beds for youths in Clay and St. Johns counties,

with Clay County getting the lion's share," said Edgar Mathis,

Juvenile Justice manager in the Jacksonville regional office.

The regional center in Jacksonville has a capacity of only 113

permanent beds, and at times is severely overcrowded, requiring

youths from throughout Northeast Florida to sleep on mattresses

tossed on the floor, said Mathis.

Clay County, which currently has about 100 juveniles

incarcerated in various Juvenile Justice Department programs,

contributes greatly to the regional center's overcrowding

problems, officials said.

Brent Harris, one of two juvenile intake officers in Clay

County, told the Juvenile Justice Council Tuesday morning that a

detention facility in Clay is absolutely needed.

"We average 16 to 19 kids each week in detention from Clay

County," Harris said. "The problem I have with our kids in Duval

County detention is they need attention from local people, from

counselors, from clergy, from their parents. They need visits

here.

"It's time we took care of our own. It's time to build a secure

facility here in Clay County."

But the time to act is now, said Mary Jo Thornton, a Juvenile

Justice Department district administrator.

"We have a deadline of June 7 to site this program," Thornton

told members of the Clay County Juvenile Justice Council. …

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