EUGENE, Ore. — In less than a week, the Juvenile Justice Center will cut its number of beds in half.
The center is a $44 million investment that has never reached its full potential. Now the good it’s been able to do is about to take another hit.
“Budget cuts are affecting us across the board. In every part of our system, we’re seeing a reduction,” said John Aarons, case work supervisor.
That includes cutting its current number of detention beds. While equipped with 96 beds, only 16 are now being used. Starting July 31, eight more will be in the dark.
“Detention gives us a chance to do two things. One is keep the community safe and address the issues with the young person so they get the skills they need to never ever come back here again,” Aarons said.
Most of the center’s residents have multiple criminal offenses, including burglary and assault.
“You get kind of the cream of the crop here doing crime after crime, and they’re just in a really bad cycle,” said Pam Paschke, juvenile counselor.
Staff say cutting the beds and programs hinders their chances at becoming a well-functioning member of society. The kids agree.
“It’s helped my decision making and ability to make smarter and safer choices,” said a 15-year-old who we’re choosing not to name.
The 15-year-old was helped by the Intensive Residential Phoenix Program, which barely survived the cuts. It’s just one of many crucial services that teens are grateful for.
“”It’s like a joke in my family that getting caught was the best thing that happened to me, because when I got in trouble, now I’ve accomplished a lot more than I could have and I’m onto a better track of life, so it’s pretty good,” said a 17-year-old.
While these two young men were able to take advantage of these opportunities, it may not be long before others like them won’t get the chance at all.
Staff members believe they would greatly benefit from another bond measure or generous benefactor. The center hopes that now that the community knows what’s going on, perhaps it will step up to the plate and provide assistance.