Tucson juvenile center school closing, jobs lost

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- Juvenile offenders, needing to attend school while locked up will no longer be able to do so in Tucson.  The state is closing the juvenile center school, saving money.

It will lead to a loss of jobs and loss of support for some of those juveniles.

Catalina Mountain School will close, meaning more than 70 juvenile offenders will be shipped off to two facilities in the Phoenix area.

"We have a building where the roof is no longer safe and it would cost us over a hundred thousand dollars to fix or replace that roof," said Charles Flanagan.

Director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, Charles Flanagan, says the school is run down.

And it already costs more to operate than the other two facilities which have a wider variety of services.

"Including sex offender treatment programs and specialty mental health programs plus a broader range of vocational programs," said Flanagan.

The state will save nearly $1.5 million next year and nearly $4 million in 2013.

However, officials at the Pima County Juvenile Court house say they don't want penny pinching to come at the expense of progress.

"We always look at the issues of public safety, the needs of the child," said Rik Schmidt.

Court administrator Rik Schmidt says keeping kids in facilities close to families and friends is the best way to treat juveniles battling substance abuse and problems at home.

He also says only 16 of the offenders at Catalina are actually local.

"So a lot of focus, a lot of attention needs to be placed on transition and working through some of the those issues while the youth is committed," said Schmidt.

Perhaps the real losers in this situation are the employees.

"We're going to be offering jobs to the 68 people who have the greatest retention rights under DOA personnel rules," said Flanagan.

Those workers will have to relocate, while about 60 employees will have to find work elsewhere.

Juvenile corrections is working on video visitation sites to keep kids connected.

The school closes October 1, but officials will start sending groups of juveniles to the other facilities in early September.