Future of the JDF
by Carolyn Kahant for TaxpayersWatch
At the time he proposed the jail expansion, Sheriff Rusty Heirholzer also proposed closing the "old" building at the
JDF and using the new "state of the art" building to house only pre-adjudicated juveniles. This would save the county approximately
$1 million a year, he says, conveniently paying for the jail expansion. Possible self-interest aside, the Sheriff does
make some good points.
In mid-June, before the 2005-06 budget workshops began, he visited the facility and found
it housing 31 juveniles and had 38 employees. Of the 31, only three were Kerr County post-adjudicated youths, and
the highest number of county pre-adjudicated during that week was twelve. It needs to be understood that separation is required not
only between girls and boys, but between pre- and post-adjudicated. There are certain "break points", meaning there
are times when several additional juveniles can be admitted without increasing staff, and times when one additional child
will bump up staff requirements. This just comes with the territory of juvenile facilities.
At a cost of $140 per day to detain and treat a juvenile at the KCJDF, raising the fee,
as suggested, to $85 or possibly $90 will still not cut it, while making us less competitive. Hierholzer adds that, "I
do not feel we need to be placing larger counties' juvenile gang members with Kerr County's juveniles." He also
used the term "shell game" to describe the way we pay for Kerr County youths at the JDF. Over $95,000 so far this year
has come out of the Kerr County general fund, gone to the juvenile probation department which paid the
JDF, who returned it back to the general fund as revenue. Says Hierholzer, "This, to me, is not revenue."
It is probably not widely known that most Kerr County post-adjudicated juveniles are court-ordered
to serve their time at out-of-county facilities because they require programs, such as boot camp, that Kerr County doesn't provide.
Since we are not able to keep all our juveniles close to home now, adding a few more to this number should not prevent us
from making sensible financial decisions.
All told, TaxpayersWatch thinks Hierholzer has presented the county with some valuable information.
We hope the commissioners will study it carefully. Our recommendaton is to stop subsidizing other counties by adopting the
Sheriff's proposal to limit our Juvenile Detention Facility to serving only pre-adjudicated juveniles. However, we would like
the $1 million annual savings to be applied to reducing our current debt, and funding projects that will encourage
more wholesome choices by our youth.