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Puzzling: Okanogan County considering outsourcing juvenile detention



Citizens would do well to continue their skepticism regarding a curious study underway by Okanogan County commissioners on whether to ship out to other locations juvenile offenders in its justice system, rather than house them in county.

The advantages of doing so are anything but clear, at least based on documents The Star requested that outline a cost study already completed. If shipped to Martin Hall, a privately run facility in Medical Lake under consideration, the annual extra cost would easily clear a quarter of a million dollars, not including transportation and other costs to the county and each city in it.

Moreover, getting into the Martin Hall consortium of nine counties that operate it would require committing to the arrangement for another 36 years. Not counting inflation, that would rack up an extra $9 million the county might better spend on services that could actually reduce “recidivism,” that is, the likelihood a kid will get back into trouble.

That doesn’t count the money each town with an arresting officer would spend on round trips to Medical Lake and Okanogan for court dates and more, or for the resulting lack of coverage the community would suffer while police are gone.

Martin Hall may be a fine institution, but common sense suggests that the further a troubled youth is kept from family or anyone else able to give support, the more likely it is that he or she, and the community, will suffer from a repeat pattern of mistakes.

The county’s director of juvenile services and a superior court judge will be in Coulee Dam to outline the discussion for the town council on April 27. The council, and anyone interested in the community’s youth, should pay close attention.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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