Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Cen­ter set for ex­pan­sion

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Brad Stutz­man Round Rock Leader con­tribut­ing writer

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of the Texas Leg­is­la­ture rais­ing the age at which ac­cused crim­i­nal of­fend­ers are con­sid­ered adults, the Wil­liamson County Com­mis­sion­ers Court last week set aside $200,000 to plan for an ex­pan­sion at the county’s Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Cen­ter.

Bills pend­ing in the state House and Se­nate would raise the age at which young peo­ple ac­cused of crimes would en­ter the adult le­gal sys­tem from 17 to 18. Com­mis­sion­ers first dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity dur­ing a Feb. 28 bud­get work­shop, ex­press­ing a sense of ur­gency to pre­pare for the an­tic­i­pated change.

“We’re guess­ing we’ll have about a year to pre­pare for that,” County Judge Dan Gat­tis said. “We’re try­ing to get a lit­tle bit ahead of that. If we don’t have to build, we don’t have to build, but I think we’re go­ing to have to build this.”

Ju­ve­nile Ser­vices Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Scott Matthew said county jail records in­di­cate that in 2016 the jail held 340 17-year-olds separated from the adult pop­u­la­tion for a to­tal of 2,270 days. About four or five 17-year-olds were cur­rently in the jail, he added.

Based on that, and pend­ing leg­isla­tive ac­tion, Matthew said he thinks a wing with 15 more beds would need to be added to the 96-bed fa­cil­ity he over­sees.

As with the adult jail, those in ju­ve­nile lockup are separated by clas­si­fi­ca­tion, Matthew said. Half of the 96 beds are al­lo­cated for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and the other half for sin­gle-cell “se­cure de­ten­tion.” He said the se­cure-de­ten­tion side is al­most al­ways filled to ca­pac­ity.

Matthew noted the Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Cen­ter has not been ex­panded since it opened in 2002, de­spite the in­crease in Wil­liamson County’s pop­u­la­tion. The de­ten­tion cen­ter is lo­cated off the In­ner Loop in Ge­orge­town, near the Wil­liamson County Re­gional An­i­mal Shel­ter.

The $200,000 com­mis­sion­ers al­lo­cated will be put to­ward pay­ing for ar­chi­tec­tural, engi­neer­ing and de­sign ser­vices.

Ac­cord­ing to back­ground in­for­ma­tion in the court’s agenda packet, the en­tire ex­pan­sion project would cost about $1.2 mil­lion. No money has been set aside for con­struc­tion. Com­mis­sioner last week also:

Agreed with Precinct 1 Com­mis­sioner Terry Cook that in­for­ma­tion about county-ap­pointed boards and com­mis­sions should be in­cluded on the website. In­for­ma­tion is to in­clude what the board or com­mis­sion does, who is serv­ing on it and the dates for their terms of of­fice.

Ap­proved the ap­point­ment of By­ron Totty as a deputy con­sta­ble for Precinct 1.

Ac­cepted $84,388 in grant fund­ing for a 12-month po­si­tion in the county’s Emer­gency Man­age­ment Divi­sion. The person hired will an­a­lyze and plan for po­ten­tial chem­i­cal emer­gen­cies.

Ap­proved County Court-at-Law No. 2 Judge Laura Barker’s re­quest that grant fund­ing pay for a part-time co­or­di­na­tor in the Vet­er­ans Court and a part-time co­or­di­na­tor in the DWI court. Barker said the idea is “to get peo­ple treat­ment faster.” There has been one clerk han­dling both courts, but that person will now re­turn to pre­vi­ous du­ties in the adult pro­ba­tion de­part­ment.


The Wil­liamson County Ju­ve­nile Jus­tice Cen­ter opened in 2002, but has not been ex­panded, even though the county’s pop­u­la­tion has grown.

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