- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska officials say security improvements are being made at Kearney’s Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center.

At a meeting Saturday, administrator Mark LaBouchardiere listed more than 10 changes that have been made since April, including giving families gas vouchers to visit, increasing the monthly allotment of phone calls home from two to four, and using Skype for phone calls.

“We’re just scratching the surface folks. … We have a whole lot more changes coming,” LaBouchardiere said.

The center has seen a drop in the number of escapes since April, when 10 left the facility, the Kearney Hub (https://bit.ly/2alHgGs ) reported. In May, there were five escapes, and in June and July, one each.

LaBouchardiere said most escapes occur when teens are away from the facility with family or on furlough.

Youth-on-staff and youth-on-youth assaults have also dropped from 40 in March to 17 in July.

Other changes that have been implemented include an increase in food portions, collaboration with the state Department of Labor to help teens gain job training skills and security specialists driving around the facility’s perimeter to watch for escapes. Next week, teens at the facility will begin wearing the same green T-shirt, and officials are also considering putting a fence around the facility.

“The stress level in my house has gone way down, and I compliment you,” said Stephen England, who lives near the facility. “From my perspective, it’s been very good.”

Buffalo County Sheriff Neil Miller said something still needs to be done about the minors who end up at the county jail. There are currently four teens from the facility incarcerated.

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Information from: Kearney Hub, https://www.kearneyhub.com/

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