World Architects and Engineers met with the Scott County Board of Supervisors in late June and laid out three options for renovating or expanding the county's juvenile detention center.
The most ambitious plan called for a 64-bed facility. The price tag on the projects were $16 million, $23.2 million, and $23.9 million.
The report sparked a discussion over county priorities and asked an important question: How does the county weigh the need to incarcerate juveniles with the desire to rehabilitate young offenders?
That discussion will be the focus starting at noon Saturday, Oct. 5, during a two-hour community forum entitled "Juvenile Justice and Jails." The program will be held in the Champions Club Room in Modern Woodmen Park and is co-hosted by Scott County Board Supervisor Ken Croken and the Juvenile Justice Coalition of the Quad Cities.
"Sixteen million? Twenty-three-million? That's a lot of money - no matter how you look at it," Shaena Fazal said during a phone interview. Fazal is Chief of Policy, Advocacy and External Communications for Youth Advocate Programs (YAP) - and the featured speaker at the Oct. 5 forum.
"One of the things you have to wonder is why that kind of money isn't put into programs aimed at rehabilitating the young offender and restoring the greater community."
An attorney based in Washington, D.C., Fazal said the mission of the 44-year-old YAP is to build community responses and resources aimed at building social infrastructures that help keep young people out of institutional placement. YAP is a private contractor that works in over half the country, partnering with governments, young people and their families to provide intensive alternatives to institutions.
"I wonder if people could look at this way: Would you rather live next to a kid who just got out of a detention center, or a kid who has been through a supportive rehabilitation program?" Fazal said. "I think that's the most basic way to break it down.
"We know incarceration does little for young offenders. There is no doubt that it is needed at times — but we have to find ways to address broader and deeper issues with kids who offend."
Fazal said she planned to present how YAP works with young offenders — including child and family meetings with trained mentors, the inclusion of restorative justice programs that seek to put offenders in close contact with victims, and individualized assessment plans aimed looking at offender strengths.
"We have one motto at YAP: No Reject and No Eject," Fazal said. "We take every kid. No kid is ever kicked out. We will meet with kids and their families for as long as possible."
In an interview and in a news release Croken stressed his belief the county has to find alternatives to incarceration.
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“As Scott County considers increasing the capacity of its Juvenile Detention Center by over 250 percent at a cost of millions to county taxpayers we have to begin a community dialogue on more effective and less expensive alternatives,” Croken said. “There is no debate that public safety demands that we incarcerate violent offenders and many repeat felons, even when they are juveniles.
"But we are seeing the cost of detention continue to skyrocket and there appears to be little evidence of any long-term rehabilitation taking place. We need to consider new approaches."
It is not clear how many members of the five-person County Board of Supervisors will attend the forum. Earlier this month, board president Tony Knobbe, vice-president Ken Beck joined Brinson Knizer, and John Maxwell to vote down a Croken resolution asking for a non-binding resolution to name October "Juvenile Justice Action Month."
Beck said he could not attend the forum because of prior commitments. He said he voted against the resolution because it was written by an organization — Youth Advocate Programs — unknown to him or any of the law enforcement officials with whom he spoke.
He said just because the supervisors voted against the resolution it " ... doesn't mean we are against exploring as many options as possible - especially when it comes to rehabilitation."
"As far as the forum goes, I think it's a good thing and good discussion to have," Beck added. "We are looking at serious questions based on the JDC population and how it has grown.
"And there will be more challenges. It won't be long before we have to house every juvenile in the JDC. There are nine juveniles in Scott County Jail right now. In a year, the kinds in the adult jail have to go into the JDC."
Beck said JDC expansion isn't born of "wanting to put more kids in jail."
"I know I can speak for every supervisor when I say this: Not one of them wants a JDC with 40 or 50 kids in it," Beck added. "That would be horrible for kids, their families and for this city and county.
"We would like to find a way to keep kids out of crime and reduce the number of kids continually committing crimes."
The forum will include a panel discussion of the current state of juvenile justice reform in Scott County and elsewhere. Panelists scheduled to participate include: Campaign for Juvenile Justice State Campaign Director Brian Evans and Grand View University Professor of History Kevin Gannon, who was featured in the film, “13."
Scott County Director of Juvenile Detention and Diversion Programs Jeremy Kaiser also will take part in the discussion, as well as Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski; and, St. Ambrose University Criminal Justice Associate Professor Grant Tietjen.