Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, July 17, 2000

Wright County board approves funds for juvenile offender specialist

By John Holler

One of the most troubling parts about juvenile crime is that many who begin criminal or anti-social behavior as teens tend to be become repeat offenders and begin a cycle of crime that continues as they become adults.

Until now, Wright County has had a difficult time dealing with these recidivist offenders, since the county's court services department doesn't have an agent on staff to deal specifically with the offenders when they could out of a detention facility or out-of-home placements.

However, that will change soon, as the Wright County Board approved the hiring of an agent to work directly with the offenders as part of the board's July 11 board meeting.

Court Services Director Mike MacMillan said that he has been leery of making such grant requests in the past because, if funding for such programs dries up, the county is stuck with a full-time employee and all of the costs involved.

However, the county's match for the $30,000 position is only $3,000 and guarantees are in place that if the program does discontinue funding the Minnesota Department of Corrections will still pick up half the costs.

"This position will be an intensive agent that would have evening and weekend visits with the juveniles in question," said MacMillan, who added the most juveniles who become repeat offenders commit their next crime 30-90 days after their release. "The hope is that we can reduce the number of repeat offenders and help these kids build up some life skills when they return to the community."

The position will begin in September and, while the commissioners said they would have preferred to wait for the budgeting process to discuss the position, the wheels were already in motion and the court services department can handle the 2000 cost of the grant project in its current budget. The overriding factor, the board said, was getting help out.

"There are a lot of challenges when it comes to dealing with the kids and the problems they're facing," Commissioner Ken Jude said. "If a program like this can straighten out some of these kids and get them away from a life of crime, then it's been a success."

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