January 17, 2009

Counties to share juvenile site

By KRISTY DAVIES
Courier-Post Staff

Gloucester County is regionalizing its Juvenile Detention Services with Camden County to save taxpayers $1.7 million annually, officials say.

The current facility in the Clarksboro section of East Greenwich costs about $2.5 million to run and houses an average of 10 youths at a time. But effective April 1, Gloucester County will begin using the Camden County facility in Gloucester Township.

"We've been looking at this for six years with various counties," said Gloucester County Administrator Chad Bruner. "We didn't want to build a new facility and over the past year and a half conversations have intensified since (Camden County) built a new juvenile facility."

The two counties agreed Wednesday on a one-year contract with an option to extend the term.

"It will cost us $650,000 to $750,000 a year to use the Camden County Youth Center," Bruner said. "The contract is not to exceed $800,000."

Although the regionalization is expected to save taxpayers money, layoffs are imminent.

"We will have to maybe lay off 12 to 15 people at the end of the 75 days," Bruner said. "We will try to transfer as many as we can. There might be a couple of social workers who can go into openings in the next couple of months. For the juvenile detention offices we can do governmental transfers."

Overcrowding is not a concern for officials from Gloucester County or Camden County because of agreements with surrounding counties to handle any overflow, they said.

The Camden County Youth Center has a capacity of 61 with a detention population average of 49.

"If (Camden County) goes over that number we can send juveniles to Cumberland County," Bruner said. "If the population swells to about 30 juveniles, we'll have to get back into the business."

The Camden County Youth Center opened its doors in late 2007.

"We're charging Gloucester County per diem per juvenile," said Camden County Administrator Ross Angilella. "There may be additional staffing and food costs. Taxpayers of Camden County can be assured we are using this building in the most efficient way possible, bringing in business and, at the same time, regionalizing a service that will benefit Gloucester County taxpayers as well. It's a win-win."

Alternative sentences have resulted in a decrease in juvenile detention populations across the state, Bruner said.

Once the Clarksboro facility is vacated, adult women could be moved there. Weekenders and minimum-custody or nonviolent offenders and men who are in work detail programs will be housed at the old women's facility, said Bruner.

Reach Kristy Davies at (856) 486-2917 or at krdavies@camden.gannett.com

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