JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - A Madison County judge says a the county needs a new juvenile detention center as well as new courtrooms and offices, but county officials say they don’t have the millions of dollars that construction would cost.
The Jackson Sun (https://bit.ly/1wahSe9) reports the center currently has seven beds and one cot, and can house a maximum of eight children at one time. If a girls is admitted or two members of a rival gang, that number drops to four. That’s because girls must be separated from the boys and rival gang members must be separated from each other.
Although Madison County’s center can’t house many juveniles, officials here are often asked to take children from across the region. That’s because it the only juvenile detention center west of the Tennessee River outside of Memphis
“Jackson is the hub for all of these counties, where everybody comes to shop and/or shoplift, drink, go to teen parties, break into houses or commit an offense in their community, which requires them to be housed,” Little said. “And they have nowhere to go.”
There are two sides to the detention center. One side has three cells, or pods, and the other has four. When there are eight children on a given night, one of them must stay on a cot in the “all purpose” room.
When the center is full, Little has to send children to Murfreesboro or Columbia. There there is plenty of room at those facilities, but it costs Madison County thousands of dollars.
That’s why Little believes the best solution is to build a new facility with 32 to 40 beds. Little said the additional beds would allow the center to house everyone when there are rival gang members or girls. Each could have his or her own pod and there would be room for more.
“Thirty-two (beds) would meet the needs for West Tennessee,” she said.
Little also said the Walter Baker Harris Juvenile Court Building is in need of repair, with many of the areas containing asbestos and some parts of the building that are unsafe. The changes are estimated to cost at least $10 million.
The Jackson Sun reached out to multiple county commissioners. All said that they recognize the crowding issue but do not see a feasible way to finance a new building.
“I don’t think we could do that right now,” Madison County Finance Director Mike Nichols said. “They’re going to have to do something, but I don’t know what that is right now.”
Information from: The Jackson Sun, https://www.jacksonsun.com
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