Archived Story

Juvenile facility operated at 96% full

Published 7:00pm Monday, February 18, 2013


ST. JOSEPH — While other such facilities ran so far below full that wings closed, “busy” Berrien County Juvenile Center operated at 96 percent capacity in 2012.

Director Rich Dama told the Berrien County Board of Commissioners Administration Committee Thursday morning that of 100 admission requests received from law enforcement in 2012, 55 were approved and 45 were denied within an average 25-minute turnaround time.

A DSF, or detention screening form, scores juveniles by weighing prior offenses, gang activity and mitigating factors such as school enrollment and parental supervision.

Mashing factors together yields a score.

The highest DSF was 22, the lowest -3. Males rated an average 9.7, females 8.3. The average age of admission was 15.

“Zero to six, we don’t admit them to the facility,” Dama said. “Seven to 11, we will accept them, but prefer other avenues. Twelve and above are definite keepers.”

“Juveniles should be detained because they pose an immediate risk of re-offending in the community, they’re a danger to themselves or others or pose a significant risk not to appear in court. Those are the criteria we use,” Dama said.

Admissions came 35.7 percent from law enforcement, 26.4 percent from court orders and 37.9 percent from “J-5’s,” or juvenile arrest warrants.

The facility in Berrien Center has 16 secure detention beds and eight non-secure detention beds.

Of 227 total detention admissions last year, two thirds were males. Half were African American males, 21 percent African American females, 18 percent white males and 11 percent white females for an overall population 71 percent black and 29 percent white.

“One thing we don’t have a lot of in this community is shelter care,” said Dama, who has been with the center for eight years. “Youngsters who score on the low end of the threat spectrum of the DSF, there simply isn’t anywhere else for law enforcement to take them.”

Daily populations ranged from 6 to 17. When capacity is approached, Berrien turns to other detention facilities in the region, such as Kalamazoo or Calhoun County.

Having to go outside BCJC costs at least $150 a day per youth, plus transportation.

With 5,581 total care days divided by 173 youths released, the average length of stay was 32.26 days.

BCJC also has an eight-bed alternative detention program (ADP), which opened 211 days in 2012.

“It’s staff secure, not physically secure,” Dama said. “It had an almost 58-percent occupancy rate.”

ADP served 80 youth — 54 males and 26 females, 69 African Americans and 11 whites.

The residential treatment family services program admitted 28 youth. Eighteen were successfully released into the school furlough phase. Fourteen, or 78 percent, advanced to community re-entry. Ten were not successfully released, with five away without leave and five whose assaults on staff or parents constituted physical aggression that demanded a high degree of security.

Average length of stay for residential treatment was 247 days — eight months. The goal is six.

Of five youth placed on home detention, three successfully fulfilled it and two failed.

There were 112 assigned to tether — a “high number” — with 68 (61 percent) successful and 37 (33 percent) unsuccessful. Seven remained active in 2013.

In January, BCJC saw 14 law enforcement referrals, with six accepted, six denied and two approved, but not delivered. Two came by court order, seven by J-5’s.

The current detention center population, 12, consisted of nine males and three females.

Dama oversees a staff of about 40. Two positions are vacant, though assistant supervisor should be filled by the end of this week after interviewing applicants last week.

The other opening is for a youth specialist.

BCJC at full strength has a clinical treatment services manager, an assistant director, an executive secretary, three supervisors, three assistant supervisors, a food services coordinator, two cooks, two reintegration and family services coordinators, a therapist, three case managers and 22 youth specialists.

New case manager James Panozzo started Feb. 18.

Detention admissions


2012 — 227

2011 — 234

2010 — 249

2009 — 220

2008 — 232

2007 — 222

2006 — 249

2005 — 246

2004 — 218

2003 — 258

2002 — 270

By using this website’s user-contribution features, including comments, photo galleries, or any other feature, you agree to abide by the terms of use. Please read this agreement in its entirety because it contains useful information that will help you better understand the rules and general "good manners" that are expected when contributing content to this website.

Editor's Picks