Are juvenile halls fading away? Written by Erik Larsen Jan. 25, 2014

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1 Are juvenile halls fading away? Written by Erik Larsen Jan. 25, 2014 app.com Are juvenile halls fading away? After spending millions on facility upgrades, few minors are being held in custody Gerald Bowden, director of the Ocean Co. Dept. of Juvenile Services, tours the Juvenile Detention Facility in Toms River and explains a new plan to create an inpatient, juvenile drug rehab program at the facility. Bowden in one of the bedrooms Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Toms River, NJ. Staff photographer/bob Bielk/Asbury Park Press Zoom Gerald Bowden, director of the Ocean Co. Dept. of Juvenile Services, tours the Juvenile Detention Facility in Toms River and explains a new plan to create an inpatient, juvenile drug rehab program at the facility. Bowden in one of the bedrooms Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Toms River, NJ. Staff photographer/bob Bielk/Asbury Park Press Consolidation Why this story mattersocean County spent $2.4 million in 2007 to expand a juvenile detention center that was almost immediately rendered obsolete because of changes in state policy regarding the incarceration of minors charged as criminal defendants.there were 17 county juvenile detention facilities in New Jersey prior to Since the implementation of Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, six counties have consolidated their operations with other counties. Warren County closed its facility in December 2008 and transferred its most serious juvenile criminal defendants Morris County. Passaic County closed its facility in April 2009 and transferred its most serious juvenile criminal defendants to Essex County. Gloucester County closed its facility in May 2009 and transferred its most serious juvenile criminal defendants to Camden County. Sussex County closed its facility in December 2009 and transferred its most serious juvenile criminal defendants to Morris County. Monmouth County closed its facility in June 2010 and transferred its most serious juvenile criminal defendants to Middlesex County. Mercer County closed its facility in June 2011 and transferred its most serious juvenile criminal defendants to Middlesex County.In Monmouth County, there were 12 males and no females committed. There were three males on probation and 11 males enrolled in aftercare programs. In Ocean County, there were 19 males and 1 female committed. There was one male on probation and 12 males enrolled in aftercare programs.source: New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission $2.4 MAmount Ocean County spent in 2007 to upgrade its juvenile detention facility in Toms River. It was built to hold 30 minors.19most recent number of minors held at the center TOMS RIVER More than six years after Ocean County officials opened a $2.4 million addition onto its juvenile detention center, there are on average just a dozen defendants housed 1/5

2 monthly behind walls built to accommodate up to 30. In Monmouth County, there were so few residents at its juvenile detention center that officials shuttered the facility in 2010 and sent its 25 incarcerated minors to Middlesex County. The facility had been designed for 40. Indeed, across the state between 2008 and 2011, five other counties also closed their juvenile halls and consolidated services with other counties. Has there been a sudden, dramatic drop in juvenile crime? No. What changed is the philosophy in how juvenile criminal defendants should be managed after arrest. In 2004, New Jersey partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to become among the first states to participate in a program called Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. The foundation, by its own description, is dedicated to helping disadvantaged children. The foundation s philosophy is that only the kids who need to be in detention, that is to be secured away from the community, should be in detention, said Gerald Bowden, director of Ocean County Juvenile Services. In other words, juvenile detention is intended to be a place for the most serious, usually violent, offenders children who would be considered a clear danger to society if allowed to remain free, Bowden said. However, in practice, most of the minors Bowden has seen coming in these past couple of years are drug related and those who persist in violating the terms of their probation. This (probation violation) may also be connected to the substance abuse charge, especially if the offender is caught continuing to abuse the substance, he said. There has been a real effort on the part of the judiciary to reduce the number of VOPs (Violation of Probations) recently. The use of alternatives to putting the juvenile in detention has also increased. Electronic monitoring via ankle bracelets, home detention and placement in a government run children s shelter are all options the Family Division of Superior Court has employed since the initiative begun, he said. Ten years ago, we had juvenile detention centers that were very overcrowded and were operating above their approved capacity, said Sharon Lauchaire, a spokeswoman for the state Juvenile Justice Commission. So today, the situation is that these centers are for the kids who need to be detained. What s happened is that, less and less kids are being put into detention, so you have detention centers that were built for 200 kids, now they only have maybe 50, he said. So then the county governments started saying, Well, that s too expensive, let s start closing them up. Rehab for kids 2/5

3 Ocean County has chosen not to follow that route. Instead, the Board of Freeholders decided to adapt part of the facility in northern Toms River into a planned rehabilitation center for juveniles who have fallen victim to the heroin epidemic at the Jersey Shore or to other forms of substance abuse. To have a secure rehabilitative program, that is where the kids just can t walk out, Bowden said. One of the problems with a private rehabilitation center, is that if a juvenile leaves, the facility does not necessarily have the legal power to physically stop them from walking out the door, he said. A county run program would be linked through the Family Division of Superior Court and would serve as a secure facility that would be regulated by the state Juvenile Justice Commission. Under current law, a judge can sentence a juvenile defendant to up to 60 days in a county facility, which would be a long enough period to administer a full substance abuse rehabilitation program, he said. Bowden said about 90 percent of criminal defendants previously sent to the juvenile detention center were being prosecuted on drug related crimes. We don t get a lot of homicides, attempted homicides, robbery, armed robbery, he said. Minors who are convicted of serious crimes that lead to long term incarceration are sent to state run juvenile correctional facilities in Jamesburg or Bordentown, Bowden said. At the Ocean County Juvenile Detention Center, the secure complex has a feel of a boutique boarding school in permanent lock down and one where Big Brother is always watching through a battery of surveillance cameras and individual checks. Here, there s enough accommodations so that each juvenile gets his or her own room and the teachers on staff can provide more direct attention. During a recent tour, there was indeed little evidence anyone was in residence beyond one male teenager who appeared to be in some kind of time out and was pounding his hands against the thick glass wall he was behind. Rehabilitation first Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy said when most people think of juvenile crime, they tend to think of the aberrations that make headlines homicides and other violent crimes. In truth, much of juvenile crime today that occupies the attention of local law enforcement is associated with disorderly person offenses stemming from harassment or bullying over , text messages and social media. These are matters that are typically handled at the municipal level in juvenile conference committees made up of officials and professionals who arbitrate disputes or work with families to address grievances, for crimes in which the child would never see the inside of a juvenile detention center. 3/5

4 Technology, it s a new dimension that wasn t there 15 years ago, Mastronardy said. According to the state Juvenile Justice Commission, most juveniles accused of a serious crimes reaching an indictable level offense are for assaults, followed by violations of probation, then property damage and public disorder. Toms River attorney Steven Secare of Toms River has sat at both tables in a courtroom as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. Unlike adult offenders, whose prison sentences are intended in part to be a deterrance, the focus on juvenile justice is squarely on rehabilitation, Secare said. If the child has a strong support system at home, he or she is likely to be best served outside of a juvenile detention facility where there are quite a number of programs intended to help that child become a lawabiding adult. Ocean County has a pretty good support system for the judges, Secare said. By the time a case reaches the judge, they pretty much know what is going on with the kid. There is a ton of programs for kids, so for a kid to get sent to Jamesburg is rare. Freeholder Jack Kelly, director of law and public safety on the five member, all Republican board, said there have been as few as four juvenile criminal defendants at one time at the detention center. Kelly has put together a committee made up of judges, the county prosecutor and other officials to look at what can be done there, in terms of rehabilitation, with the same amount of money. On Jan. 1, the county closed its juvenile shelter next door where minors removed from neglected or abusive homes by the state Department of Children and Families would temporarily be housed because its monthly population had fallen to two or three children. The county entered into a contract for $275,000 per year, as opposed to the $800,000 cost to operate the shelter. The remaining $525,000 will be diverted to drug rehabilitation for minors. You have to separate populations, we can t allow the two populations to co mingle, but by putting up a false wall or whatever you want to call it, we can do half the program on one side of the building and half on the other side of the building, Kelly said. We re just now beginning to look at that. Changes to impact adult offenders too Kelly will be looking at grants and non profit programs to help aid the county in that effort and said he plans to expand the initiative to adult offenders at the Ocean County Jail who are incarcerated there on nonviolent drug related crimes. Kelly pointed to Gov. Chris Christie s own efforts to reform the treatment of low level drug offenders and to broaden access to treatment. In its 2013 budget, the state included a $2.5 million increase to expand access the drug court program into all 21 counties. Another $4.5 million is earmarked in the 2014 budget. The freeholder said the percentage of repeat offenders in the Ocean County Jail is at an unacceptable 90 percent for drug related offenses. Once a person has been convicted of a crime, they are not entitled to any help from social services, Kelly said. 4/5

5 I sound like a left wing liberal on this, quipped Kelly, who has long identified himself as a conservative Republican tough on crime. You re in jail for a period of time, we don t do drug counseling for you, we don t rehabilitate you on drugs, you now have a criminal record so you re not eligible for help from social services to house you, it s very hard to get a job because you have this criminal record, and we open the door and say good luck. And that s why our recidivism rate is like 90 percent. For Kelly, the issue hits close to home. A drug problem resulted in a criminal conviction for his 31 year old daughter, Dawn Marie Kelly, a former employee in the Little Egg Harbor tax collector s office, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to stealing more than $40,000 from township taxpayers to fuel a drug addiction. She has since been working to get her life back on track. Addiction is a brain disease that needs to be treated, Kelly said. So there are a host of things we re looking at changing, in how we take care of both juvenile detention and what I always refer to as the big house, the (adult) correctional facility, in what we do there with the idea that there s less recidivism and that we turn some lives around and make people a productive member of society again. 5/5

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