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Kids who offend: Juveniles from Wadena County continue to be sent to Moorhead facility

West Central Regional Juvenile Center in Moorhead.

When youths in Wadena County are arrested and need to be placed in a secure place, one option is sometimes used when nothing else will do.

The West Central Regional Juvenile Center (WCRJC) functions as a coed 32-bed secure facility, as well as a coed 15-bed non-secure care program. The center is located in Moorhead and provides services for juveniles with behavioral, protection, dependency, and delinquency issues. The secure portion of the service is one Wadena County has used for many years in helping juveniles find success from their decisions.

According to Mark Rolloff, juvenile and adult corrections officer for Wadena and Todd counties, juveniles that go to the center can't go anywhere else.That's to say that it's a specific program that puts the juvenile in a secure facility for a period dependent on the severity of the crime they are involved in.

"It's not kiddy jail," Rolloff said. "Only certain kids can be in secure detention. Kids sent there are generally in need of further programming."

The center serves youth of all cultural backgrounds, ranging in age 11-21. Youth with existing medical conditions are accepted along with low-level sex offenders. The center also serves as an emergency shelter for the safety and well being of the child, according to the center's website.

The center serves Wadena, Otter Tail, Becker, Cass, Clay, Grant, Stevens, Traverse, Douglas and Wilkin counties.

The Wadena County Board of Commissioners approved renewing a contract with the West Central Regional Juvenile Center for purchasing bed space at its Nov. 21 meeting.

The annual purchase agreement of $83,500 from the county's budget secures bed space for youth from the county. According to social services supervisor Mike Willie, Wadena County uses almost one bed per day at the center. Some are there a month, others a couple days. No trend seems to exist in the amount of beds needed.

Rolloff said some juveniles just need the center to "cool off." It's often enough to get them to clear their heads and get back to their families and school.

Wadena County Attorney Kyra Ladd likes the center because it serves the county at all hours. The need doesn't typically happen during business hours, but the juveniles are placed when the need arises.

Ladd said the resources required for Wadena County to handle the juveniles on their own would be a major cost and burden on the county.

"Whether we use beds or not we get charged," Ladd said. "But we come out ahead whether we use it or not."

"Having this contract doesn't guarantee placement, but without this contract non-member counties are often turned away," Wadena County Human Services director Tanya Leskey said. "They have enough children that they fill capacity."

Above all, county staff agreed that the center serves the juveniles in a unique way.

"There is that important rehabilitative side," Leskey said.

Rolloff explained that the juveniles there are taught self-respect, responsibility and concern for others. They are expected to have some measure of success while there.

"When I first started, the juvenile center was basically jail," Rolloff said. "Now they focus on chemical dependency, cognitive learning, evaluations, family, home and school."

Schooling doesn't stop while the juveniles are there if they are in detention for an extended period. They can get help in their studies, including receiving their GED.

The decision to place a juvenile at this center is not taken lightly. Rolloff said they strive to enlist the least restrictive sentences on juveniles. He believes the results coming out of the center are better than the services that the county could provide on their own.

Wadena County use of bed space at West Central Regional Juvenile Center

Year bed days used

2010 354

2011 247

2012 364

2013 185

2014 415

2015 284

2016 258

2017 333 (projected use)