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Juvenile Detention Operations Ceased

The Outagamie County Sheriff's Department will no longer detain juveniles at the jail - opting to convert the space into a secure area for medically/mentally ill inmates.
        Lt. Brian Wirtz is seeing fewer and fewer juveniles detained at his facility. The reason he says, is an increased focus on rehabilitation outside of jail.

        "We averaged about 15 kids a day in 2006, and we've gone slowly down to last year only averaging about 5 and a half per day."

This year, that number is down to 2 - leaving dozens of beds empty, and a hefty price tag for operation.

        "The fiscal on that was enormous," says Sheriff Bradley Gehring. "It was almost a million dollars to continue to operate the facility for 2 kids on average per day."

But as of today, cell blocks A and B have new residents - mentally and medically ill inmates - who previously had been spread throughout the jail. While the number of juvenile inmates has decreased, the number of mental and medically ill inmates has increased, forcing this move to become necessary.

        "The nature of the jails being as they are, sometimes they can be targets for the younger, rougher inmates and that presents a problem," says Wirtz.

The move places the inmates in a secure area where health officials have immediate, round-the-clock access.

        "They'll have more of a personal touch," says Sheriff Gehring. "Health and Human Services will have greater access to them. We have an officer staffing it, we have the video capability to monitor their activities to make sure everyone is okay, so it will help to enhance the medical services."

Wirtz agrees, saying the move will turn an under-utilized area into an area where inmates can feel safe.

        "I think now with being able to take these inmates and use these cell blocks for what they're intended, I think it's going to have a better effect for these inmates."

Juveniles from Winnebago County had been held at the Outagamie County Jail until last year, when they opted to stop paying for beds and move those inmates to Fond Du Lac. Juveniles detained in Outagamie County will now be held in Brown County.
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