Hennepin County Juvenile detainee population shows dramatic drop

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Star Tribune
  • June 24, 2009 - 8:52 PM

The number of people detained each day at the Hennepin County juvenile detention center has declined 33 percent over the past three years, the District Court said Wednesday.

The decline, according to the court, meets one of the goals of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which has been pursued in the county since 2005.

The average daily population for the juvenile detention center in 2005 was 95. In 2008, that figure dropped to 64, the court said, adding the trend is continuing this year.

Before the initiative, research showed that some of those detained were being held for infractions that did not pose a public-safety risk, such as curfew violation, truancy or juvenile-status offenses such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

Under the initiative, juvenile detention staff now weigh whether a young person should be held in secure detention or is eligible for a community-based alternative.

One example: Before the initiative, about one-third of the warrants for the arrest of juveniles was for failure to appear in court. Now, volunteers make reminder calls to young offenders and their parents about court dates, reducing the number of no-shows by nearly 20 percent.

Also, juvenile crime in the county in 2008 dropped 17 percent from 2007 and 29 percent from 2006.

Judge Tanya Bransford said the county has targeted juvenile crime in collaboration with the courts, the county attorney's office, Minneapolis police, the city of Minneapolis and schools.

The initiative "is helping us avoid the negative behaviors that can develop from having a juvenile who has committed a low-level offense, like curfew violation, placed in secure detention with youth far more deeply involved in the system," said Bransford, who has chaired the initiative for the past three years and will continue as co-chair. She leaves Juvenile Court this month after six years.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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