The average daily inmate population at the Hennepin County Jail is 685. About six of those inmates are juvenile offenders being tried as an adult for a felony.
The sheriff’s office wants the ability to house those juvenile offenders at the county’s juvenile correctional facility just a few blocks away in downtown Minneapolis, but current state rules and regulation will not allow it. A bill approved by the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee would change such rules and regulations that officials say result in inefficient operations.
“Statistics bear out that if you put a child into an adult facility a child is pretty much going to be there for the rest of their lives,” said Rep. Linda Slocum (DFL-Richfield), who sponsors HF642. “An adult facility is a different venue, shall we say, than a juvenile facility.”
The differences, officials say, lead to inefficiencies in the operations for housing a juvenile in an adult facility, including nutrition and health services and education opportunities.
“The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office currently provides specialized accommodations to its youthful offenders, but it comes with undue burden both financially and operationally to the sheriff’s office,” said Capt. Mike Wresh, a facility commander at the jail.
The burdens, Wresh said, include a federal court-mandated requirement that the local school district provide teachers and educational opportunities to juvenile offenders being held in adult facilities. Currently, Hennepin County correctional deputies are resorting to using jail office space for teaching sessions for juvenile offenders. Wresh said housing the juvenile offenders awaiting to be tried as adults in the nearby juvenile corrections center would provide financial and operational efficiency to both the sheriff’s office and school district resources.
“If we can serve those juvenile offenders in the juvenile detention center it’s a better space, more efficient for us and a better educational setting for the students,” said Jim Grathwol, lobbyist for Minneapolis Public Schools.
Wresh stressed that passage of the bill would not mandate juveniles be housed in the juvenile correctional facilities; it would simply give sheriff’s and judges more administrative flexibility in determining where such juvenile offenders would be detained as they await adjudication.
The bill has no Senate companion.