The proposed expansion of the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center and the County Jail deserves a deeper examination of the root causes of the social marginalization experienced by many young people and their families in our community. The expansion of both facilities concerns us very much. It is the proposed expansion of the juvenile detention center that offers the most concern.
As the Scott County Board of Supervisors review the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center and Jail Assessment, we recommend that a task force is formed consisting of parents of young people involved in the juvenile justice system, young people who have been through the juvenile system, youth service providers, faith leaders, educators, business leaders and public officials charged with developing a comprehensive, county-wide youth development policy and identify funding to support the policy. We strongly encourage any new funding to expand juvenile detention beds is matched by proactive, positive youth development initiatives identified by the task force. Increasing the number of juvenile detention beds does little to restore hope and purpose among young people and nothing toward the root causes of the youth-related crime.
The study proposes to expand the current juvenile detention center’s 16-bed facility to 48 beds by 2022 (Phase One) and possibly 64 beds by 2037. Phase One could cost Scott County taxpayers at least $23.3 million to build the new facility and cost $3.7 million annually for staff and salaries.
Page 23 of the study states, “Violent crime offenses in Scott County has increased 354%. This increase in violent crime offenses is opposite of the nation-wide trend.” Arresting and detaining our youth does not address or solve the root causes driving this local phenomenon.
Page 31 of the Assessment projects in 2037 the overall Scott County juvenile population ages 15–19 will have declined by 4% and at the same time the number of beds to detain our young people will have increased by 263%.
The American Academy of Pediatrics found in its 2017 report called How Does Incarcerating Young People Affect Their Adult Health Outcomes?: “Incarcerated juveniles have extremely high rates of unmet health needs. Nationally, 46% of newly detained juveniles have urgent medical needs requiring immediate attention. 70% of incarcerated juveniles have at least one psychiatric disorder.” They wrote, “…the small existing literature on longitudinal health effects of youth incarceration suggests that any incarceration during adolescence of young adulthood is associated with worse general health, severe functional limitations .... incarceration may also compound existing socioeconomic and psycho-social health risks...”
The Justice Policy Institute finds in a 2006 paper called The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities that detention is not cost-effective. “Whether compared to alternatives in the here and now, or put to rigorous economic efficiency models that account for the long-term costs of crime and incarceration over time, juvenile detention is not a cost-effective way of promoting public safety or meeting detained young people’s needs.”
On this issue, Supervisor Ken Croken said, “Let’s take a breath ... there’s a whole range of creative programs out there.”
Our community is already taking important steps, including:
• JDC Director Jeremy Kaiser recently unveiled new initiatives based on youth-team decision making, restorative justice, and family group conferencing.
• A Youth Assessment Center is being considered which we expect will connect young people to positive resources and divert them entirely from the juvenile justice system.
• A statewide children's mental health system will soon be added to our existing adult system, providing services that were previously offered only to adults.
• The Davenport school district is working with our state and experts to reduce behavioral issues worsened by racial disproportionality and mishandling of special education needs.
• Vera French is launching a multi-systemic therapy initiative.
• The City of Davenport has initiated incentive programs to invest in central city neighborhoods preserving safe and attainable homes.
• The QC Health Initiative is making inroads on reducing health disparities in our community.
• The QC Trauma Informed Consortium is creating momentum in how to help people heal who have been through serious traumatic events.
The study correctly cautions us on the financial risks of building a juvenile detention facility with too many beds. Unintentionally, a large facility would undermine and de-incentivize these and other positive youth development programs. Let’s take a breath, and invest in our kids’ futures, their hopes, and the best our community has to offer them along their way.
John De Taeye
Alta M. Price