Program aims to keep juveniles out of prison - KOTA Territory News

New Initiative keeps kids out of lock-up


Liz Heidelberger has seen kids come and go through the juvenile justice system, often without getting the help they need.
"Kids that go into detention one time have a higher likelihood of going back. They also have a higher likelihood of mixing with kids who have a higher level of offences," said Heidelberger.
Heidelberger, the coordinator of the Juvenile detention alternatives initiative says the idea is to evaluate which youth truly need detention and which could benefit from an alternative placement.
"Alternatives are for kids who are committing misdemeanors, non violent, non person to person crimes like status offences, minor consumption, runway," said Heidelberger.
It's all about putting the right kids in the right place at the right time.
"We rely on psychological evaluations, chemical dependency evaluations to find out what's going on. Biggest challenge is figuring that out those kids who are a risk to the community, and those who just made a bad decision and have something else influencing that," said R.J. Rylance, Deputy State's attorney for the Juvenile docket.
"They'll be visited by officers or get on the ankle monitor, we have the evening reporting center. Or they can be put on house arrest," said Rylance.
But organizers admit, more work needs to be done.

Of the 605 kids accessed in the program since January, 75% were diverted from detention.

More than half of those received no further follow up - in terms of J.D.A.I. alternatives.
"If they come back a few times, we up what we do on our graduated sanctions as well," said Joe Guttierez, Commander of the Western South Dakota Juvenile Services center.
"We deal with kids doing different things, different behaviors, our system has to be malleable," said Heidelberger.
While the program continues to evolve, organizers remain hopeful that countless juveniles will make the most of a second chance.

It costs an average of $225 a night to house a juvenile in the detention facility.

The cost for home detention services / community detention ranges from $8 dollars to $35 dollars a day.

Organizers hope to also add a ten bed shelter to the detention shelter, for runaways or those kids who have no where else to go.

There are more than 100 JDAI sites in 24 different states. 

Critics of the initiative say there is not enough accountability or effective alternatives in place to keep kids on the straight and narrow for good, if at all.

When KOTA News asked the Rapid City Police Department for their input, as well as feedback from officers, they declined to comment and referred us to the JDAI coordinator.

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