Grant to fund Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in Kosciusko County for another year

(Carli Luca / News Now Warsaw)

The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative in Kosciusko County will continue for at least another year.

Kosciusko County Superior Court I Judge David Cates told the county commissioners Tuesday, “A month ago when I asked to be on your agenda I had some concerns about the JDAI program continuing because at that time the Department of Correction had not approved our grant for the upcoming year.”

Thursday, Cates received an email saying the grant was approved as submitted in full. That means another year of JDAI in the county, he said.

“We’re going to have some programming this coming year to include … education for teachers involving teen brains, mentoring of the kids and continuation of some of the programs that we’ve already had the opportunity to begin,” Cates said.

One of the things he said they’re working on now through JDAI is a countywide coalition of individuals: school personnel, law enforcement, prosecuting attorney, Department of Child Services, Bowen Center, parents and county officials “in creating some evidence-based decision-making tools to help us in deciding which kids should be detained.”

JDAI does not mean no kids are detained in custody, he said. It means “certain kids that don’t need to be detained aren’t. The ones that still need to be detained, we will continue to do.”

He invited the three commissioners to the next meeting of the coalition, which is at noon Thursday in the Justice Building basement.

“JDAI itself involves change in mindset. We want to maintain safety for the community, but not detain kids who do not need to be detained, as I’ve said,” Cates said.

He gave credit to his juvenile probation officers working with JDAI. “Each of them, I believe, have gone above and beyond in working this program and actively pursuing options for dealing with our kids beyond what we had before,” he said.

As an example, he said they’ve partnered with Growing Minds out of Columbia City/Fort Wayne. 

“Some of these kids may not be detained, but they’ve been expelled from school. They still need to get their education, they still need to be educated, be productive members of society. Growing Minds provides transportation from our county for these kids to Columbia City to make sure they get that education,” Cates said.

As a “dollars and cents” example, he compared the first quarter of 2018 to the first quarter of 2019. 

In 2018’s first quarter, Kosciusko County had 18 kids who were detained. The average length of stay in detention for those children was nine days. It depends on where they stay on what the costs are, but Cates said the average was around $160 per day per child.

In 2019’s first quarter, one child was detained for three days. 

“That’s about a $25,000 savings to the county, comparing quarter one to quarter one,” Cates said, noting that is an example and there won’t be much of a differential in the second quarter. “We’ve had some events in the county that required some additional action. But that is an example one way that JDAI is working to save the county some money.”

He said he was happy to spend the Department of Correction’s money to save Kosciusko County money.