Williamson County Commissioners voted to set aside funds to expand the county’s Juvenile Detention Center last week.
This measure was taken in anticipation of Texas Legislature raising the age in which criminal offenders are considered adults. Bills pending in the state House and Senate increase the age at which young people accused of crimes would enter the adult legal system from 17 to 18.
Commissioners began discussion on this during a budget workshop last month.
“We’re guessing that we’ll have about a year to prepare for that,” Williamson County Judge Dan Gattis said. “We’re trying to get a little bit ahead of that.”
Scott Matthew, Juvenile Services Executive Director, said county jail records show that the jail held 340 17-year-olds separated from the adult population for a total of 2,270 days in 2016. Five 17-year-olds are currently in the jail. Based on this data, Matthew believes a wing with 15 more beds would need to be added to the 96-bed facility.
Just like adults, juveniles in jail are separated depending on their classification. Approximately half of the beds are for the general population and the other half is for single-cell secure detention. Secure detention means that juveniles are held for short periods of time in order to await current trial hearings and further placement decisions. By holding juveniles in secure detention, it ensures appearance in court while also keeping the community safe and risk-free of the juvenile. Matthew said the secure-detention side is nearly always at capacity.
The Juvenile Detention Center has not expanded since opening in 2002. The detention center is located off the
Inner Loop in Georgetown.
The commissioners allocated $200,000 for the expansion which will go toward architectural, engineering and design services.
The entire expansion project would cost about $1.2 million.