PRESCOTT – Yavapai County agencies working juvenile crime issues are about to become more than $1 million richer thanks to a pair of federal grants.
On Monday, the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors approved a pair of grants, one to help juveniles resist crime and one to incarcerate those who don't.
The board voted to accept a grant of nearly $124,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice for the YouthStep (Summer Training and Enhancement Project) program, in which juveniles on the verge of serious trouble get jobs on local college campuses and also get paid to do schoolwork.
This summer, 20 kids in the tri-city area and 20 more in the Verde Valley will take advantage of the program, according to Gordon Glau, director of juvenile court services.
"We'll be looking at kids who are on standard probation, intensive probation and in diversion," Glau said. "These are kids who need to have their time occupied and, obviously, those who don't have a job."
The program is a partnership between the juvenile court, Youth Count and Yavapai College School to Work. Participants will earn minimum wage both for their work time and their school time. Additionally, the project will include mentors, young adults from around the community who will help navigate bumps in the road.
"They will essentially be a support group for these kids, to help them through any problems they have along the way," Glau said.
YouthStep has functioned on a limited basis for the past two summers, with 24 juveniles, all on the Prescott side, taking part.
A second grant the board approved Monday will take care of a need that has pressed Sheriff Buck Buchanan and county taxpayers for several years, the housing of juveniles who will be tried as adults. The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission will give the county more than $1.1 million – in addition to $350,000 it gave last year – for the construction of a jail that will meet the sight-and-sound separation requirements of adult prisoners from juveniles.
Without such a jail, Yavapai County has for several years been taking its remanded juveniles to Maricopa County's Madison Street Jail, paying a daily lodging charge as well as all transportation costs to get those defendants back and forth from court appearances in Prescott or Camp Verde.
Buchanan, who suddenly has rapidly filling jail coffers as a result of the grant and the passage of the jail district tax last year, said the $1.5 million that will be in the juvenile jail bank is half of what a 1997 study said the county needs to build a 30-bed jail from the ground up.
But the sheriff has other ideas. Sometime before the end of this year, builders will probably begin construction of a new 480-bed adult jail on the site of the existing Camp Verde justice center. That, along with the 120-bed jail that opened there in 1998, will allow the transformation of the original, 54-bed jail on the site into the remanded juvenile holding center. That jail will not only house Yavapai County defendants, but also will offer the same service to Northern Arizona counties that the Maricopa County offers now.
Buchanan estimated it would be about 18 months before the juvenile jail will be open for business.