With the announcement that the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center will close at the end of March, local criminal justice officials have a few problems on their hands.
For Lawrence County, the biggest issue will be transportation.
Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham said the closing creates an issue of manpower. Before, a transport or patrol officer could just take a juvenile to Brownstown on a round trip that roughly took an hour. Now, with some of the nearest detention centers in Bartholomew, Johnson and Knox counties, that round trip could end up being three or four hours long.
A supervisor at the jail will have to be re-assigned to part-time duties as a transport officer, Branham said. The department already used three.
"We were already to the limits with the three we had," Branham said.
This creates a difficulty because the jail population count is sitting at nearly 200 inmates. During transport officers' off-hours in the past, such as evenings and weekends, Branham said the department would utilize a patrol officer to transport a juvenile suspect to Jackson County.
"I could afford to lose an officer for an hour to Jackson County, but now I can't afford (several hours on the road)," he said. "Which means I'll call in transport officers, and they will get overtime." That will be an added cost to the county.
Branham and Lawrence County Chief Probation Officer Nedra Brock-Fleetwood said the county was fortunate to have Jackson County at its disposal. Brock-Fleetwood said the probation department is currently examining potential costs related to using the centers in Johnson, Knox and Bartholomew counties.
But transportation isn't the only issue leaders must consider.
Lawrence County Chief Public Defender David Shircliff said he, too, is concerned about the long drives attorneys will have to make to meet with their clients, but he's looking at other issues too.
"... Currently, the Jackson County Jail has a full-time teacher who has proven to be very effective with the juveniles," Shircliff wrote in a text message to the newspaper. "We have no idea what services are provided to our clients in Knox County or Johnson County."
Lawrence Circuit Court Juvenile Referee John Plummer III said the detention center's closing won't have much impact on the court itself.
"The problem will be more for the sheriff's department transporting them," Plummer said.
As for which juvenile detention center Lawrence County will ultimately use to house its juveniles— that's yet to be determined.
Branham said Bartholomew County's center, which is in Columbus, would probably be the best choice, but there are other factors that play into it besides his own preference. He also said he's spoken with local juvenile probation about possibly changing the rules for who goes to a detention center and who doesn't.
"That's so we are not spending too much time on the road," he said. "I'm not saying that it will change. We're just taking a look at it."
Like Lawrence County, the Orange County Sheriff's Department also will face a manpower problem.
"We have Clark County now or Johnson County to use," said Orange County Sheriff Josh Babcock. "With manpower, it's harder on us. And you're looking at additional fuel costs. ... We are a small department and a small jail. Having people out of the building for a longer time puts a strain on us."
OCSD doesn't have a designated transport officer, Babcock said. The department uses its deputies."I'm going to keep in contact with the probation department," Babcock said. "They tell us where to go."