- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - The average daily number of juveniles from Salina County who are being detained has dropped sharply since the appointment of a judge who doesn’t believe that keeping kids behind bars for long periods of time solves anything.

Instead of sending young offenders to the North Central Kansas Regional Detention Center in Junction City, Judge Mary Thrower told The Salina Journal (http://bit.ly/144e8yS ) that she tries to come up with better options.

“Before I can just stick someone in detention and forget about them, I have to make sure that we are doing everything we can to keep that juvenile in their home,” she said.

The average daily number of Saline County juveniles in detention is at a seven-year low, said Lt. Sean Kochanowski of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office. There were only three juveniles at the detention facility on Tuesday. In November, the daily average was 5.6, which is down from 25 in May and 20 in March. The facility has 28 beds.

Thrower, who took over the juvenile docket in July, said locking up a juvenile for long periods can desensitize youths to the thought of being detained.

“So I have lost a tool out of my tool belt to work with that kid,” she said. “If I keep a kid in detention for three or four days and then release him, then he doesn’t become complacent to it and it still becomes a tool for me to say, ‘If you don’t go to school, you are in violation of your probation; you can go back to detention.’”

She added that parents and probation officers also have to be accountable. That includes not letting parents say they’re finished dealing with their child and want them to sit behind bars for a month or two, or allowing a probation officer to give up.

“My response to that is, ‘Well, we need to figure out a plan to meet that requirement of making reasonable efforts,’ ” Thrower said.

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com

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