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Large crowd attends county meeting on juvenile hall


Approximately 100 concerned citizens from across Okanogan County attended a special session of the Okanogan County Board of Commissioners May 10. At stake: the future of Okanogan County juvenile detainees.

A quiet group waited patiently for their opportunity to tell the three county commissioners one thing: Do not move troubled youth out of Okanogan County. Included in the group were District Court judges Charles Short and Robert Grim and Superior Court judges Christopher Culp and Henry Rawson. Questions from the judges and comments from citizens followed a 90-minute presentation by three representatives from Martin Hall, a juvenile detention facility located approximately 150 miles east in Medical Lake, Washington.

This special session was the fourth of six scheduled sessions as the county commissioners gather facts and figures from Chelan County, Martin Hall and Okanogan County administrators in order to determine where to best detain juvenile offenders before, during and after appearance in Okanogan County Superior Court. Commissioners stated that costs associated with detention, transportation and rehabilitation services, as well as impacts to juveniles and their extended families, will be considered before a final decision is reached.

Martin Hall Juvenile Justice Facility is a 63-bed facility constructed in 1935 and leased from the state of Washington by a consortium of nine Washington counties. Management and day-to-day operations of the facility are provided through a five-year contract with Community, Counseling & Correctional Services (CCCS), a private, not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Butte, Montana. CCCS has 14 correctional facilities located in Montana, North Dakota, Idaho and Washington. The company also provides approximately 90 percent of the transportation services associated with moving prisoners incarcerated in the Montana Correctional Facility system.

Lincoln County Commissioner Scott Hutsell, chairman of Martin Hall, led a discussion that focused on the process the nine-county consortium uses at the end of each calendar year to determine a daily bed rate to charge facility users during the following year. The facility houses between 22 and 25 juveniles per day this year, with a recent peak of 40 juveniles. The average stay at Martin Hall is 14 days. Members of the nine-county consortium are charged for a total 27 beds used 365 days per year, whether the beds are used or not. The bed rate this calendar year is $155 per day for a total of approximately $ 1.53 million.

Non-consortium counties and other judicial jurisdictions, such as Indian tribes and states, have access to the remaining 36 beds in Martin Hall in two ways: First, the jurisdictions can contract for one or more beds for 365 days for one year at the same daily rate the consortium members pay ($155 per bed per day this year). Garfield County has used this approach in the past. The second approach is to contract for beds on an as-needed basis. This is the approach most commonly utilized by tribes. This year, the consortium is charging $200 per day per bed under this approach.

Hutsell and his team, commissioners Jack Johnson, of Stevens County, and Bill Smith, of Douglas County, provided additional information during the special session. The team covered educational and behavioral modification counseling, capital improvements and day-to-day maintenance and transportation costs. Currently, CCCS provides transportation services to consortium members at no cost. Coulee Dam Mayor Greg Wilder drew a buzz from the audience during the comment period when he stated that the notion of free transportation was little more than “smoke and mirrors.”

Further informational sessions are scheduled at the Okanogan County Commissioners Hearing Room in the Grainger Building on the county justice campus in Okanogan. On June 14, Court Administrator Dennis Rabidou will present information on programs and services currently available to juvenile offenders at Okanogan County Juvenile Detention. On June 21, Superior Court judges will discuss legal issues associated with preliminary detention, transportation and court appearances.

Sessions will start at 6 p.m. The public is welcomed and encouraged to attend.

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