City leaders highlight bed shortage at Youth Detention Center - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

City leaders highlight bed shortage at Youth Detention Center

(Source: WTVM) (Source: WTVM)
(WTVM) -

A possible bed shortage at the Columbus Youth Detention Center is putting a strain on several city agencies and may even be impacting local taxpayers.

"The youth detention center here is full and that's impacted us in a tremendous way," says Sheriff John Darr.

The amount of juveniles his department is responsible for transporting has nearly tripled in recent months.

When the Y.D.C. was full in the past, Darr says the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office on average would transport 10 to 15 kids a month to and from other Y.D.C centers in the state. 

In December 2015, the sheriff's deputies traveled 4,800 miles to transport 33 juveniles.

In January 2016, the sheriff's deputies traveled 4,400 miles to transport 26 juveniles.

Finally, in February 2016, so far the Sheriff's deputies have traveled 5,200 miles to transport 36 juveniles. 

"We are driving a lot of miles that we weren't having to drive before having to go out of town and so that is going to the taxpayers," says Darr. 

Warner Kennon, the juvenile court judge for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, says it's not that he is seeing an increase in the number of kids committing crimes. Instead, it's an increase in the amount of crimes that require detention as a punishment. 

"The offenders are younger and younger and the severity of the cases in fact do seem to be more severe," says Kennon.

Danielle Forte, Assistant DA Juvenile court prosecutor, says a backlog may also be contributing to the shortage of beds.

"Yes there's definitely a shortage and the reason for the shortage is because one of the issues I am faced with is the children are awaiting a behavioral health evaluation, and we can not prosecute a case until that assessment is done," says Forte.

While the prosecutors are waiting for the assessment to be done, the offenders are spending more time in the beds at Y.D.C.

The Department of Juvenile Justice says their is not a bed shortage.

Although the DJJ wasn't given permission to do an interview as of yet, they said Columbus Y.D.C has 60 beds and throughout the state there are 536 beds.

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