Budget cuts may force closure of juvenile corrections facilities

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PHOENIX – There is strong reaction to a proposal to get rid of the entire juvenile department of corrections.

Critics say it will make kids more likely to commit more crimes. The idea is to close the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections and send the thousands who are served by the department each year to county jail facilities.

This is part of the proposed state budget expected to Gov. Jan Brewer's desk later this week.

Prisoner advocate Donna Hamm says she fears it will turn troubled youth who go to places like Adobe Mountain School for rehabilitation into career criminals. “This is supposed to be a chance for offenders to feel someone cares about their well-being, cares about their future. None of that is present in county jails.”

There is also the issue of the cost, which is a savings of nearly $70 million for the state. Under the latest agreement, the state would provide some money but it would still cost the counties millions of dollars.

County Supervisor David Smith says, “This doesn’t work. It’s a bad policy and it should be thought of more carefully.”

Sen. Ron Gould (R-Ariz.) adds, “Yet they had plenty of money to build a new Taj Majal court house but don’t have the money to do what they’re supposed to do?”

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has offered to take all of the offenders from DJC into his jails. He says, “We can make room in our jail system for 700 tomorrow.”

Despite Arpaio's promise to spare additional cost to the counties, it too is drawing opposition.

Smith says, “J-A-I-L. That’s what he's proposing when they really need a secure facility that provides for education. The long-term cost to Arizona and the future of kids is going to be something we're very very sorry about if this happens.”