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December 20, 2014

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Budget cuts to stretch county’s juvenile offender programs

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Steve Marcus

Fritz Reese, director of Clark County Juvenile Justice Services, poses in the booking area at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

Juvenile Justice

Juveniles hold their hands behind their backs as they walk through the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Launch slideshow »

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With severe state budget cuts looming, the best many Clark County juvenile probation officers can hope for beginning in July is to have caseloads 50 percent above national standards.

It could get worse than heavier caseloads for the cash-strapped county if it is also required by legislators to help finance the state’s supervision of youthful offenders in correctional or mental health facilities or alternative programs. And there’s also the chance, albeit slight, that the county will be without adequate funding to run the Spring Mountain Youth Camp for lower-level offenders or provide treatment for juveniles with mental health issues.

As the Legislature approaches its June 6 closing with many budget issues still not resolved, two nervous spectators are Fritz Reese, director of the county’s Juvenile Justice Services, and Family Court Judge William Voy, who presides over cases involving juvenile offenders. Both fear proposed cuts will stretch manpower thin, making it difficult to supervise, treat or counsel offenders.

“I’m always concerned about every cut,” Reese said. “Every cut is a blow, but our staff understands that we have to work through this.”

When Gov. Brian Sandoval proposed balancing the state’s budget without raising taxes, the county’s juvenile justice programs were to lose more than $7.1 million over the next two years. The governor and the Nevada Child and Family Services Division have since agreed to add back $4.6 million. That funding would help place 287 troubled youths in Medicaid-funded residential facilities to receive mental health or sex offender treatment and allow the county to continue operating the 100-bed Spring Mountain Youth Camp for youths who committed low-level offenses such as property crimes or drug use.

But that still leaves $2.5 million in cuts to key county juvenile justice programs. Those cuts include:

• $1.2 million from the Continuum of Care and Family Empowerment programs, which provide intensive supervision to help keep certain offenders with their families or in group homes instead of in detention. Continuum of Care, the larger program, serves 175 youths. Over the past four years these programs, which include family involvement, have helped reduce the rate of offenders committed to state facilities by 36 percent. The cuts would eliminate five full-time probation officers, two full-time mental health clinicians and four part-time employees.

• $756,000 to help the county supervise youths committed to the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center. Last year 354 Nevada youth parolees were detained in the facility. The cuts would eliminate five full-time probation officers.

• $487,000 to operate the Aftercare Program, which provides six months of intensive supervision to offenders after they have been released from Spring Mountain Youth Camp. The program, which serves more than 200 youths annually such as making sure they are attending school, has helped keep 88 percent of them from committing new crimes. The cuts would eliminate two full-time probation officers and one full-time clinician.

• $107,400 to provide evaluation and treatment for juvenile sex offenders.

Reese said he’s cautiously optimistic the Legislature will approve the money the governor has agreed to add back, but that optimism doesn’t extend to the remaining cuts.

If those reductions are approved, Reese said county juvenile probation officers will each average 60 to 65 lower-level offenders to supervise, far above the 45-to-1 ratio he said is a national standard and above the 55-to-1 ratio they have now.

“It creates a lot more work for the officers, so it reduces the amount of time they can spend with the youths and their families,” he said.

And Voy said: “Our juvenile probation officers are stretched as it is.”

Because many offenders come from homes where parental supervision is poor, Voy said the proposed cuts make it more likely that juveniles will end up in detention.

“When you cut juvenile services it also has direct impact on public safety,” he said.

Click to enlarge photo

Juveniles hold their hands behind their backs as they walk through the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center on Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

If legislators reject the governor’s intention to add back $4.6 million, which is possible, the potential damage to the county would be far worse, Voy said. It would mean certain offenders with mental health problems who live in the community could be forced into detention. It would also threaten the future of Spring Mountain Youth Camp, raising the possibility lesser offenders would be sent to state youth camps in Elko and Caliente that house more violent juveniles.

“It also would increase the possibility of kids being transferred into the adult system,” Voy said. “They’ll end up worse off coming out than when they went in.”

He said that in 2009 the district attorney’s office asked him to transfer 57 juvenile offenders to adult detention facilities. Last year, when the state closed the maximum-security Summit View Youth Correctional Center to save money, Voy received 90 requests to transfer youths to adult facilities.

It’s possible the county will also have to spend $4 million in each of the next two years if lawmakers pass Senate Bill 476, which would require the county to support the state’s Youth Parole Bureau, which supervises offenders in state facilities and provides counseling and other aftercare services once they are released.

Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Mary Woods, whose agency oversees juvenile justice programs, said the state budget is in such flux it is too early to predict what the effect on the county will be if SB476 is approved and state funding is reduced.

But county spokesman Erik Pappa has said it faces a projected $105 million deficit heading into the fiscal year beginning July, a figure that doesn’t include the $250 million in lost revenue to the state and an increase in unfunded state mandates.

Reese said he doesn’t know how the county would come up with the money SB476 would require.

“The county does a good job of funding us but our budget is tight,” Reese said. “We don’t have the money in our budget to come up with that $4 million a year to absorb those services.”

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  1. The solutions is simple -- raise the state's bar for what it takes to interfere with a child's life. Like actual violent crime, not the BS of sexting, &c.

    The state -- especially the police and their parasites -- needs to respect the Constitutions and return to its original limits. That's a MUCH smaller piano on our backs.

    "The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations." -- Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925)

  2. As an educator who worked in Correctional Education and Alternative Education (in another state), I find it simply astounding that our Governor(s) and LAWMAKERS continue to AVOID addressing the real problem with NEVADA STATE REVENUE (income):

    Failing to meaningfully reform and restructure how MINING is TAXED. In over 100 years, there has been next to nothing in reform or tax restructuring for the MINING INDUSTRY, here in Nevada! That can only happen by the Nevada State Lawmakers changing the Nevada Constitution folks! It takes about 6 (six) years to do, or 3 (three) Nevada State Legislative Sessions.

    Talk about not being responsible for legally minor youth, when the People of Nevada, TRUST elected officials for their care, welfare, and SAFETY!!! OMG!

    "Do the crime, pay the time." That is it. Also, as a responsible society, it is in our best interest to release these individuals with some "good thinking" replacing the "bad thinking (and whatever)" that got them incarcerated/there. Give these kids tools/skill sets to do the correct and right things when they are released back into society, so that they can be good citizens and contributing citizens.

    To strip services is to simply "wherehouse" wayward/criminal youth, without truly doing our responsible parts in assisting them towards reform. What kind of society and state have we become to discount human beings in such a way? GEZ!

  3. I have a question that I have asked several times and even once to County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, which he has failed to even acknowledge that he received the email. Why should the county loose thousands and thousands and maybe even millions of dollars a year letting AMR and Medi-West transport those who need to be taken to the hospital.
    Here the county is talking about cutting more than 30 million dollars out of the county budget, and possibly laying off an additional 400 county employees. Yet the District Attorney's office is refusing to trim their budget anymore. There are cities, both bigger and smaller than Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Clark County, and Henderson put together that transport those that call the fire department for Emergency Medical help. The City of Lincoln, Nebraska terminated its contract a few years ago with a private ambulance firm and the program paid for itself within two years. The program adds an additional Million plus dollars a year to the city budget.
    I know earlier this year my girlfriend's father had to be taken to the hospital and the Clark County Fire Department was on the scene for at least ten minutes before AMR arrived. AMR sent her father a bill for almost a thousand dollars of which his insurance covered 850 dollars and AMR is going after her father for an additional 150 dollars that they say is due, even though he is on Social Security and gets around 800 dollars a month.
    In 2010 the County Fire Department responded to 104,882 medical calls. Now assuming the County Fire Department transported 90,000 of those who called for Emergency Medical Services and they billed the insurance companies for those calls and the insurance companies paid 850 of the almost a thousand dollars that AMR charged my girlfriends father, the county could have added an additional 76.5 million dollars to the budget. And if the county would have billed 500 dollars an addition 45 million dollars could have been added.
    So my question is why is Commissioner Sisolak afraid to answer the email about this, well I have two thoughts on that one he is too busy going after everybody and making county employees look like bumbling idiots or AMR and Medi-West contributed to his campaign and he does not want to lose their contribution's. But what can we expect from a man who sued the County and won 25 million dollars because he wanted to build something too close and too tall to the airport.
    Maybe now the commissioner will answer my question.

  4. For stopthebs: you might be surprised that there are systems in place to 'bill the parent(s)' for the damages incurred by their child. The problem is that often, these youth are from homes that have next to no assets/are on welfare/public assistance.

    You cannot squeeze blood out of a turnip, as they say. This debt can/might follow the youth and eventually be collected in life. Maybe.

    There are some pretty high paying positions here in this state, and it really should be voted by the taxpayer public when pay/compensation hits a certain limit on a public official. Ain't gonna start naming names. =)

  5. Aaronboy...
    I do believe there might be a message in that gobbledyguk. It might even be worth reading, then perhaps commenting on. Heck, it might even merit consideration. Lord knows, we need a whole lotta help in the area of Juvenile Corrections. Mainly because we have a whole lotta bad parenting, & in some cases, a complete and total DISREGARD of parenting. The problem as I see it, Aaronboy, is that you have penned a completely illiterate bit of mostly unreadable prose. Perhaps you could rephrase.

  6. Aaronboy...
    I do believe there might be a message in that gobbledyguk. It might even be worth reading, then perhaps commenting on. Heck, it might even merit consideration. Lord knows, we need a whole lotta help in the area of Juvenile Corrections. Mainly because we have a whole lotta bad parenting, & in some cases, a complete and total DISREGARD of parenting. The problem as I see it, Aaronboy, is that you have penned a completely illiterate bit of mostly unreadable prose. Perhaps you could rephrase.

  7. Woops...
    What I meant to post there that second time was the Nevader State Motto, which rightly comes into play in the discussion of stripping funding from these very important programs...
    "We will bite off our noses to spite our faces!"

    We have NO IDEAR what y'all mean by Cause & Effect...can you give us a clue?"