Juvenile detention numbers are down substantially in Minnehaha County. But the drop has less to do with the crime rate and more to do with a change in philosophy.
"We averaged about 18 kids per day here in September of this year. We averaged 43 last year. So there is a drop," Todd Cheever, who manages the Minnehaha County Regional Juvenile Detention Center, said.
The center can hold more than 55 residents, but is only about half full right now. That's due to changes being made to the corrections plan at the county level.
"The purpose is to put kids in the right place at the right time. And sometimes detention is not the right place for all the kids that get into trouble," Cheever said.
And it's all because of a pilot project called the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative which Minnehaha County is participating in. It's just one of two South Dakota counties.
"Make sure we satisfy two core requirements. Keep the kid safe and the community safe. And make sure the kid gets to court. If we can do that without necessity and expense of detention, that's what JDAI is all about," Minnehaha County Administrative Officer Ken McFarland, who is working on the project, said.
Fewer intakes at the detention center also mean fewer dollars needed to run it. Cheever says the budget has already shrunk and of the five employee vacancies he's had the past year, only one will be replaced.
"We'll certainly be down-sizing the numbers of staff we have in the facility if the numbers are consistent. But the numbers don't show what we do with the kids," Cheever said.
Fourteen other counties send their juveniles to Sioux Falls. They also pay the county for that service. Cheever says that won't change, and it's too early to tell if the lower lock-up numbers are a trend.