While the debate about closing DuPage County's juvenile detention center rages on, Kane County officials said Friday they're going to want some proof they can handle the potential influx of new inmates before agreeing to take DuPage's most troubled youths.
Officials from DuPage and Kane counties toured Kane's juvenile facility earlier this month in anticipation of a possible agreement between the counties. Early versions of the plan involve Kane County receiving a daily, per-inmate fee to take all of DuPage's juvenile offenders. In trade, DuPage County would also receive a daily fee to take Kane's work release inmates. The deal was pitched as a money-saver for DuPage and a revenue-generator for Kane.
So far, the discussion on the Kane County side has only involved court personnel, judges and County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay. County board members asked Friday when they'll start seeing some of the details since they must vote on any deal before it becomes final.
"I've seen nothing through this committee or finance committee where we've even started to look at this," Kane County Board member Jim Mitchell said. The comments came at a Friday meeting of the board's Judicial and Public Safety Committee. Mitchell said he's skeptical of the idea of moving Kane's work release inmates to a DuPage facility.
"Do you think most of the people on our work release work in DuPage County or in Kane County?" Mitchell asked. "I think we need to look and make sure we're amenable to this. If this is going to mean an expansion of our youth center, we certainly should be getting a unit of money upfront to pay for this."
County staff members said they don't expect a firm answer from DuPage County until mid-September. It's at that point a plan would be brought to the Kane County Board. Staff members said they don't want to waste any more time on the plan if DuPage County isn't serious about the deal.
"We put a lot of work in this," Court Administrator Doug Naughton said. "Hopefully this won't just be some game that's going on in DuPage."
Staff members told Mitchell, if the time comes, they're ready to show Kane County can easily accommodate DuPage's juveniles.
"We have the room; we have the staff," said Rick Anselme, superintendent of Kane's juvenile facility. "And I would imagine DuPage will really use their alternatives to incarceration (electronic monitoring) big time to keep their numbers down."
Anselme said Kane County will probably have to hire more staff, but the new revenue from DuPage should more than provide the money to do that.
Board members then expressed a concern about taking in DuPage's most troubled youth offenders and mixing them with the population already in the jail. The fear is such a mix would only create new contacts and openings for gangs to establish territory in new areas.
Kane County Court Services Director Lisa Aust said practices are in place at the juvenile center to keep that from happening. The very design of the juvenile center allows for the isolation of groups of inmates from each other, she said.
"It's not like they are one big population," Aust said. "It's a very controlled atmosphere, and we have a highly-developed anger management system. I'm very comfortable about being able to handle them."
Anselme said the atmosphere of Kane's juvenile center would probably be surprising to most people.
"You could visit it for a month and you'd never be able to tell which kid is doing what because they are pretty well behaved in our building," Anselme said. "The staff never leave these kids alone. They are always with them. In the building, they like the school. They are getting built up with their self esteem."