Plans begin for new Elkhart County juvenile detention and intake centers

NOW: Plans begin for new Elkhart County juvenile detention and intake centers

It's a growing problem in Elkhart County: young teens are getting into trouble with the law, at a rate that hasn't been seen before. Now, the county is facing a problem they have avoided for awhile.

"I need to point out that this is not a luxury. This is a necessity. We need a new juvenile detention center for the well-being of our county," says Deborah Domine, the Magistrate of the Juvenile Division Elkhart Count Circuit Courts.

Elkhart County's current juvenile detention center is at capacity and falling apart. 

After years of going back and forth to decide what to do, Friday afternoon, a plan was unveiled. 

A juvenile detention and intake center could soon be built at the Elkhart County Criminal Justice Complex.  It would be just steps away from the county jail. 

"We own the land. Number two, it's already zoned for detention, and number three, we have security we can share immediately," explains Judge Michael Christofeno, the presiding judge for Elkhart County Circuit Court. 

"Food, laundry, utilities, infrastructure, can all be share," he adds. "That's going to hold down the cost. It's an efficient government operation."

A government operation that still has a long way to go, though.

But Judge Christofeno says, the need for a newer, bigger juvenile center in the county is critical. 

"We've got an increased population. We've got increase in CHINS (Child In Need of Services) cases, which leads to juvenile delinquents, which leads to an increased detention population," he explains. 

And the way these juveniles are handled, needs to change too.

Magistrate Domine says, it's a way to ensure these kids don't keep on the same path. 

"If we can turn a child's life around, they're not going to be a burden. They're going to be an asset," she says. 

Judge Christofeno says he's cautiously optimistic that the council will vote to allow this new center to be built.

The preliminary estimate to build the center is $7.5 million, but that could change depending on the final plane.

They aim for the final plan to be presented in June.

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