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Juvenile court facilities to meet growing need

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County Commissioner Bob Bullen gazed at a storage room filled with empty 8-foot filing shelves in the new Juvenile Justice Services building.

“Good grief,” Bullen exclaimed. “Are the kids in the world that bad?”

Bullen commented during a tour of the $25 million facility scheduled to open in mid-June on South Church Street near Interstate 24.

Detention Capt. Chris Fly said about 2,000 juveniles were booked into detention annually. About 200 to 300 of those juveniles are from neighboring counties who pay Rutherford County to house them because they don’t have their own detention center.

Juvenile Court Judge Donna Scott Davenport, Juvenile Court Clerk Eloise Gaither and department heads took commissioners from the Property Management Committee on a recent tour of the building.

“It will be totally secure,” Davenport said.

Juvenile staffs were expected to move later this month, the judge said.

“I think that it is a solution to help with our at-risk teens and troubled families to have everything under one roof and one building,” Davenport said. “It is a tremendous way to keep our detained children safer and be able to give the services that we are statutorily required to give in a more effective way.”

The new facility will house:

• Two courtrooms, a hearing room and offices for Davenport and Referees Keith Siskin and Adam Dodd. The judge and referees handle cases of juveniles accused of crimes, child support, child custody, and dependent and neglected children.

Children in custody will be held in holding rooms near the courtroom.

Hall asked how the children in custody will hear testimony by witnesses.

Davenport said they will figure out a way to make sure the testimony is heard.

• Gaither’s office with work stations for seven employees with room to grow. The office includes the storage room for filing Juvenile Court documents that drew Bullen’s comments.

• Youth Services offices for Director Teena Sanders Gray and the staff of probation officers who monitor delinquent children.

• Two Community Learning Center classrooms for educating “extreme troubled youth,” said Director Michael Payne. “We deal with the kids who have no place to go. Our goal is to get them to graduate.” About 35 to 40 graduate each year.

• The detention center containing three pods. Each pod holds 16 single-cell cots in two stories. One pod will be designated for girls and the other two pods for boys. A central control room in the center of the pods will control the doors, intercoms, lights and emergency buttons throughout the secure building. Handicapped cells are available.

Interview rooms and a medical unit for the nurse will be housed in the booking area.

Children in the pods will have visitation with their parents through a video system in the lobby.

Fly said the old workhouse behind the facility will be torn down and replaced with a fenced outdoor recreation room before the new center opens.

“We’re very proud of it and excited,” Fly said.

Commissioners seemed to like the new facility.

“I’m proud of this,” Commissioner Carol Cook said.

Property Management Committee Chair Rick Hall called the new facility “awesome. They needed this 20 years ago.”

Juvenile Court and the Youth Services office are now located in the Judicial Building. Detention and the Community Learning Center are housed in the old jail built in the 1950s on West Main Street.

Hall said there are no immediate plans for the old detention center. The property may be sold or used by the school board.

“The Property Management Committee will probably brainstorm about it,” Hall said, adding people who have ideas about its use may contact him online at www.rutherfordcountytn.gov and click on the commissioners’ link.

Lisa Marchesoni may be reached at 869-0814 or at lmarchesoni@murfreesboropost.com.
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