The Marion County Juvenile Detention Facility has hit what some consider its lowest population in at least 12 years, evidence that a risk assessment tool implemented about two months ago is working. A new reception center may lower those numbers even more.
Earlier this week, the Marion Superior Court announced the population was at 98 – below the facility cap of 144 that was often filled prior to the recent changes. The number had increased to about 118 on Wednesday but was much lower than the high 100s past years have yielded.
Juvenile Magistrate Geoffrey Faither, who has been on the juvenile court bench since 1995, wrote that he has never known of a count that low.
This is part of a continuing push for improvements to the facility’s battered image arising from controversial findings of a federal Department of Justice investigation last year that deemed the facility wasn’t safe for staff or residents. Part of an assessment included a study workgroup that identified a need for a reception center where low-risk children can be taken by law enforcement instead of to the detention center.
A reception center will begin its pilot period Sunday with $150,000 in funding from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. With the center, organizers anticipate that fewer low-risk children will intersect with the juvenile justice system and, in turn, will leave more time for courts and attorneys to focus on cases involving serious, violent offenders. More violent offenders will continue to be sent to the juvenile detention facility.
The Reception Center will be at the existing reception center for runaway children, known as Youth Emergency Services, at 4144 N. Keystone Ave. In the nine-month pilot, coordinator Gael Deppert expects about 500 children to be referred to the center for class B and C misdemeanors.