The Douglas County Board of Commissioners received a presentation on juvenile justice in the community Tuesday.
Abby Carbaugh, data administrator for the Juvenile Justice Reform Initiative, gave a report on the Douglas County Youth Center. Carbaugh said that although the average daily population (ADP) at DCYC has decreased over the past decade, numbers have ticked up in the past year.
The ADP steadily declined to 56 in 2021, but rose to 69 last year. As of Jan. 27, 87 youth are detained at DCYC. Commissioner Maureen Boyle said this poses an issue as the new detention center is set to open this year with a capacity of only 64. Boyle said length of stay for youth is a contributing factor.
“This is really more of a detention center, it’s not really something where we’re supposed to keep juveniles there longterm,” Boyle said.
According to the report, youths tried in adult courts stay at the facility over twice as long as those tried in juvenile courts. Carbaugh said adult district courts take longer partially because they have to determine whether or not to try the youth in a juvenile court. She said length of stay spiked during the pandemic because of closures in the district courts.
Deputy County Administrator Kim Hawekotte said the county is limited in what it can do to address length of stay because it’s largely up to the judiciary.
“The front door and the back door to the Douglas County Youth Center are beyond our control,” Hawekotte said.
Hawekotte said county officials have started regularly providing a list of youth being tried as adults to district judges and their length of stay. She said the computer system doesn’t provide judges with that information.
Other jurisdictions across the U.S. are also seeing an increased number of juveniles in detention since the pandemic, Hawekotte said. She said other heads of juvenile justice systems at a recent conference reported a 50-75% increase and that their populations are getting younger.
“We had a lot of discussions about how you create appropriate services for a 13-year-old compared to an 18-year-old,” Hawekotte said. “Those are very different services, but our system is getting inundated with a lot of 13-, 14-year-olds.”
The report showed that 90% of the youth detained at DCYC were nonwhite, and 56% were Black. Commissioner Chris Rodgers said social determinants in eastern Omaha cause the racial discrepancy, and the county can take action by funding services in those communities.
“The social factors on the outside are influencing the inside because if a kid’s sitting there on juvenile charges, they’re waiting for a service,” Rodgers said.
The County Board voted to oppose a bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature that would require the county to appoint legal counsel for tenants facing eviction. The Board voted 4-2, Commissioners Maureen Boyle and Jim Cavanaugh voting no and Commissioner Garcia abstaining.
Although Commissioner Boyle voted against opposing the bill, she agreed with colleagues that the bill in its current form would be problematic. She said she supports legal representation for tenants, but the bill requires the county to pay for it.
“This is an example of an unfunded mandate,” Boyle said. “If there’s a way we can get state funding I think this is something I would be very much a proponent of.”
Boyle voted no because she said the county should do everything they can to help people dealing with housing instability, since it’s a major social determinant of health.
Other commissioners echoed similar sentiments about the lack of state funding. Commissioner Mike Friend said they could speak to the state senators who introduced the bill—Sen. John Cavanaugh and Terrell McKinney—but at this point, it wouldn’t be good for the county.
“It’s well intentioned, it’s got heart, the bill makes sense, and we can’t afford it,” Friend said.
The Omaha City Council approved a revised preliminary plat for the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus on Saddle Creek Road. The new plat incorporates new land that was purchased by UNMC and addresses the intersection at 46th and Farnam Streets.
Representing the project, Larry Jobeun said the intersection at 46th and Farnam Streets will be a signalized four-way stop. Omaha Public Works Director Bob Stubbe said they considered a roundabout at that location but determined that it wouldn’t work with the buildings facing the right-of-way. Other intersections along Farnam at 50th and 52nd Streets are being considered for roundabouts.