Romules Durant, TPS superintendent, speaks about the Lucas County Youth Assessment Center in the Lucas County juvenile court.
Hoping to bring better, faster treatment to juveniles who commit low-level offenses, and in turn hoping to reduce recidivism in Lucas County, officials plan to open an assessment center Tuesday.
The Youth Assessment Center is, in a way, an alternative to the juvenile detention center.
Juveniles, anyone 17 or younger who is arrested by a law enforcement agency in Lucas County for a low-level offense — which could be a drug or alcohol charge, petty theft, criminal trespassing, or an assault in which the victim does not require medical attention — can be taken to the center and seen by trained specialists.
Once juveniles are at the center, which is housed in the Lucas County Juvenile Justice Center, 1801 Spielbusch Ave., staff will interview the youth and take him or her through different “screening tools” to see what programs or interventions would benefit the juvenile and possibly his or her family.
Juveniles accused of committing serious crimes — such as felonious assault, arson, rape, or murder — still will be taken to the juvenile detention center.
Juvenile Court Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon said providing qualifying youth with treatment and interventions could help to reduce the odds that a child will reoffend.
No youth will leave the justice center without having a preliminary court date, which currently does not happen; the judge said some youth are arrested and then not notified of a court date for six to eight weeks.
The early assignment of court dates will allow the court to capitalize on the immediate reactions that families have, such as surrounding a youth with support after an arrest.
The plan for the center, which has been in the conception stages since 2000, is based on other similar centers across the country, including in Ohio’s Montgomery County, Miami-Dade County in Florida, and Multnomah County in Oregon.
Any practices implemented in the center will be evidence-based — supported by research as appropriate for children, said Deb Hodges, administrator for the Lucas County Juvenile Justice Center.
“A lot of [programs] come out of the adult models and are not appropriate for adolescents and young people,” Ms. Hodges said.
The center is on the first floor of the justice center, just inside the main doors. The placement was intentional, making it convenient for officers who bring juveniles to the center.
The center will be open Mondays through Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturdays, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The operational hours were set after analyzing what time juveniles were most likely to be arrested in Lucas County, said Kendra Kec, assistant administrator of the juvenile justice center.
Juveniles arrested outside of normal center hours will be taken to the detention center where officials are also trained to perform assessments on the youths.
To start, the center will have a staff of five — both full and part-time employees, though officials said they hope that number eventually will double.
Funding for the center and employees was provided by reallocating existing general funds and a number of grants from various state and federal agencies. The cost of the center was not available Tuesday.
Based on the number of cases brought before the court, officials expect to receive more than 2,000 referrals to the Youth Assessment Center every year.
In 2012, 3,488 cases involving 6,516 offenses were filed in Lucas County Juvenile Court.
— Taylor Dungjen