Pa. county saves on juvenile offenders

April 27, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - While statistics show no decrease in the number or severity of juvenile crimes in Franklin County, Pa., a new way of dealing with young offenders has saved the county nearly $1 million in less than a year.

And that, officials say, could end up reducing youth crimes.

The new program emphasizes prevention and more supervision for juvenile offenders. The new initiative also features a coordinator responsible for deciding where to place juvenile offenders, which can save tax dollars.

Early in 1996, frustrated by the rising cost of running juvenile offenders through the system and finding secure places for them to stay, the Franklin County Commissioners appointed a committee to study the problem.


The committee, made up of judges, representatives of Franklin County Children and Youth Services and other county offices, recommended several proposals that the commissioners put in place.

The result appears to be helping to save money for taxpayers, said Commissioners President G. Warren Elliot. Elliott. The county has saved $240,000 so far and money needed to control juvenile crime from state sources is down by $540,000.

"Youth crime is taking a smaller bite of our tax dollar," Elliot said. "We're pleased that the numbers are heading in the right direction following years of steady growth in spending on juvenile crime. This downward trend is encouraging."

The study committee recommended shorter stays at out-of-town delinquent centers and keeping juveniles in centers closer to home.

The commissioners hired a coordinator to decide where juveniles are sent for incarceration.

Franklin County has no juvenile detention center. Instead, when a youth has to be removed to protect himself or society, he or she is sent to a secure facility elsewhere in the state or even to one out of state. The most secure facilities can cost the county up to $350 a day to house a single juvenile, Elliot said.

The county also increased the number of probation officers from seven to nine, not including the five who work strictly in the schools, said Commissioner Cheryl S. Plummer.

Juveniles are less likely to get into trouble again if they have proper supervision, Plummer said. Adding two more probation officers allows each one to work with a smaller caseload and devote more time to juveniles in their charge, Plummer said.

The commissioners are also putting more money into such grass roots preventative programs as the Chambersburg Community Improvement Association, Building Our Pride in Chambersburg and the Communities that Care program, all of which are designed to let residents in troubled communities decide what their problems are and how they should be solved.

The commissioners hired two employees to work with the programs.

"If the family is together and the children are doing well in school they won't get involved in the wrong kind of behavior," Plummer said.

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