Juvenile Detention Center passes state inspection, but population rising

News-DemocratJuly 8, 2014 

The St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center has passed its annual state inspection with flying colors, but the report's release comes at a time when the center held more detainees than any month in 2 1/2 years.

Officials with the state's Department of Juvenile Justice inspected the Center in May. The report found the center met all of the department's standards for county juvenile detention centers.

Center Director Mike Buttner said the state inspectors are ensuring the center is providing for the safety and protection of kids, staff and the community.

"We've always scored high and followed state standards. The administration always does a good job," Buttner said.

The center detains juveniles between 10 and 18 years old at its building at 9006 Lebanon Road in Belleville. In June, the center temporarily held a total of 550 detainees -- the most since 766 juveniles were held in January 2012, according to monthly staff reports provided to County Board members.

The center usually houses between 350-400 juveniles in an average month. For example, county reports state the center housed an average of 391 juveniles per month in 2013.

Buttner said the average daily population of the center is about 12 juveniles. The center is staffed to provide for up to 25 kids and has 60 beds available.

A total of 246 juveniles have been admitted this year, Buttner explained.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said the staff at the center always strive for excellence.

"They always do a wonderful job. They are very professional and do things right. That's what important," Watson said.

The juvenile detention center is separate from the county's jail, which is inspected by the state's Department of Corrections. State inspectors have continually warned that overcrowding at the 45-year-old jail creates a dangerous environment for inmates and staff. In March, voters rejected a $37 million expansion of the jail funded through a sales tax increase.

Low-cost maintenance projects have been undertaken to improve the jail, Watson said.

"Even the people from (Department of Corrections) say you do a pretty good job with what you've got to work with," Watson said.

The inspection of the juvenile detention center was conducted by Robert Catching, detention and audit services administrator with the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Richard Marsh, a compliance monitor with the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission.

The Commission is a 25-member group federally mandated to report its findings to state elected officials and the Illinois Department of Human Services.

The state's inspection report noted the center has begun sexual assault prevention training to meet the standards of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.

The center also began three health-related programs with local agencies in the past year, including:

* Call for Help in East St. Louis providing services to survivors of sexual assaults, such as counseling and forensic examinations.

* East Side Health District in East St. Louis providing HIV-related services, such as prevention and care specifically for those between 13 and 24 years old.

* St. Clair County's Health Department assisting pregnant women with intensive prenatal case management services.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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