Funding requested to move Lee Co. juveniles from local detention center

(MGN Online / Mitchell Haindfield / CC BY 2.0)
Published: Aug. 18, 2022 at 11:03 PM EDT
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LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WTVM) - Growing concern In East Alabama -- there is no juvenile detention center in Russell County, so young people who commit crimes are often sent to Lee County’s facility.

But with a rise in crime across the Chattahoochee Valley, a local judge says that the facility is quickly running out of bed space.

Crime is up across the nation, hitting close to home. In addition to overcrowding in the Muscogee County jail, it’s also led to issues with bed space at the Lee County Juvenile Detention center.

“We’re having a lot of a lot of gang activity that is spilling over from Columbus over to Phenix city, and I mean, you know, let’s be honest, it’s probably spilling over from Phenix city to Columbus,” said Russell County Juvenile and District Judge Zack Collins.

Judge Collins says the county has a contract for three beds at the Lee County facility.

“With the current rise in juvenile delinquency cases in Russell County, customarily, I’m having to play musical beds -- taking one child out of detention and to put another child in detention,” said Judge Collins.

Monday, he spoke to Russell County Commissioners, requesting $32,000 to move some of those juveniles to a facility in Dothan for a short-term stay. With nowhere for juveniles to be housed in Russell County, Judge Collins says they rely on the bed space in Lee County.

“We had a very productive meeting with the with the City Council a couple of months ago and we’ve been hearing murmurs that we may get some some funding there,” said Judge Collins.

One solution he’s also considering is helping to find alternative ways to curb youth violence besides incarceration. These include pairing them with mentors like Phenix City Teacher Scott King.

“Well the violence stems from, basically young men don’t know who they are,” said King.

While teaching character education, he says his focus is building his students up and instilling positivity in them.

“And to that youth in trouble right now. Things not going right -- I promise you things can turn around. You got to start thinking positive and also start hanging around positive people, also people who want to celebrate you,” King adds.

King also encourages other men in the community to step up to combat this issue. We’ll keep you all posted on that funding request.