Douglas County Commissioners delay Juvenile Justice Center plans

The opening of the new Douglas County Juvenile Justice Center has been delayed.
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 1:21 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to delay the opening of a new juvenile detention center into 2024.

The transition was supposed to start in November, but the board was uncomfortable with that plan since the operational capacity of beds is 52 in the new place while the current population of detained youths is 73, 60% of whom are in on gun crimes. If the transition took place Tuesday -- 21 juveniles wouldn’t have a bed.

The county commissioners heard from the public and debated the possible delay. Commissioner Chris Rodgers told his colleagues it was a bad move, saying they are on course to be under the 52-bed threshold by November. The other five commissioners weren’t convinced -- instead delaying the move to buy time to find solutions. The juvenile population needs to be at 52 or fewer for six months before the transition can happen.

During a telephone town hall hosted by the Omaha Police Officers Association on Monday night, Douglas County’s attorney and sheriff both said capacity is a big problem.

“We need to do everything we can to be able to have a facility that we can maintain for a time period to keep these people who are bad actors in detention until we figure out what we’re going to do with them in the juvenile court system,” County Attorney Don Kleine said.

The plan, now on hold, also called for the old facility to close by the end of January.

“We have to keep the current youth center open,” Douglas County Sheriff Aaron Hansen said. ”If we get to a point where we have to release high-risk, repeat juvenile offenders simply because we don’t have any place to keep them, that will cost innocent people their lives.”

This is a developing story. Stay with 6 News for updates.