Printed on: February 06, 2013

3-B getting bigger

Juvenile detention center project to break ground in three weeks

By Ruth Brown
rbrown@postregister.com

The purpose of a juvenile detention center, to Brian Walker, is to make better kids -- not better inmates.

That's why Walker, director of the 3-B Juvenile Detention Center in Idaho Falls, is excited about the 1,000-square-foot addition that will add more space for drug and alcohol treatment services, as well as more room for staff.

Officials plan to break ground within three weeks, Walker said. No date has been set for completion of the project.

The detention center, which houses 30 inmates between the ages of 10 and 17, already is at capacity. Counseling rooms and office space are cramped, Walker said. The new addition will alleviate that problem.

The facility is funded through the Bonneville, Bingham and Butte county commissions, and it houses a total of 20 juvenile offenders from those counties. Another 10 inmates are housed there through a contract with the state Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Those juveniles who participate in drug and alcohol treatment at 3-B need a secure facility, Walker said. The facility's drug and alcohol treatment services are vital to the juveniles' success rates, Walker said.

"The majority of the kids here are in on drug-related issues and even those with criminal issues -- the majority of them also have drug-related issues," he said.

During the time he's worked with juvenile offenders, Walker said drug abuse has worsened, as the types of drugs used are more addictive.

"I'll see a person come in and lose 20 pounds in three months when they get on these drugs. It's devastating," Walker said. "We see people come in to get treatment who say they started using when they were 8 and 9 years old.

"Fifteen years ago, they were around the drugs or stealing it from their parents, but now they're getting high with their parents."

Income earned from the contract to house the 10 juveniles from elsewhere in the state will cover the expansion's $211,000 construction bill, Walker said.

Walker considers it money well spent. Despite the seriousness of the inmates' issues, their recidivism rate remains fairly low, he said.

For the past five years, 70 percent of the 800 to 900 bookings done each year at 3-B returned to the facility fewer than two times, Walker said. The other 30 percent were booked multiple times within one year.

Bonneville County Commission Chairman Roger Christensen said members of the commission understand the importance of offering quality treatment for juvenile offenders.

"We've tried to make it not just incarceration but we try to have some treatment," Christensen said. "... If we can catch them at a young age they don't end up in the state (correctional) system as frequently."

The facility targets kids who violate their juvenile probation. Seven of its 20 criminal inmates are in for probation violations, Walker said.

Bonneville County has 800 to 1,000 juveniles on probation or diversion supervision, so a very small percentage of probation violators actually end up in 3-B, Juvenile Court Services Director Meri Bybee said.

"Most of these kids are good kids who have just made bad decisions," Bybee said.

While the facility works with those who've violated probation, the local juvenile court system also takes steps to steer juveniles away from detention.

Directing the juvenile probationers' energy toward positive activities is one reason Christensen helped push efforts to build Moulton Gardens, located just north of the detention center.

Juveniles on probation can work off hours of community service at the garden during growing season. Much of the food produced is donated to The Haven Shelter, Ruth House and other charities.

The garden is named in honor of Dick Moulton, who worked as the county's Court and Clinical Services director for 12 years. Moulton, who died in a 2006 scuba accident, came up with the idea for the garden.

More than 250 juveniles racked up more than 3,000 hours of community service in the garden last year.

"I think we're wasting our time if we just warehouse these kids," Walker said.

Ruth Brown can be reached at 542-6750. Follow on Twitter: @ruthbrown1. Comment on this story on Post Talk at www.postregis ter.com/posttalk/.