Sep 4, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterA program that gives youths in trouble with the law an alternative to incarceration and expulsion is developing a new site for its day reporting center.
Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative director Melinda Cox gave Fremont County commissioners a tour of the location Tuesday.
"No decisions were made," commissioner Keja Whiteman said. "Within the next couple of weeks we will have a decision whether we will want to use it as a day reporting center."
The building is a former farmhouse near the intersection of Gasser Road and Major Avenue in Riverton. Fremont County acquired the site as a part of the Major property, which is also planned to be the location of a new Riverton justice center.
"We are looking for a larger space," Cox said. "The day reporting center is for juveniles who would otherwise be expelled."
Students in the alternatives program attend the day reporting center rather than their home school. In addition to classes, the facility provides services such as community-based projects and counseling.
The program also works to connect services such as probation and juvenile drug court. Rather than holding youths in the juvenile wing of the Fremont County Detention Center, the program uses detainment methods that include ankle bracelets and housing the youths in group homes.
Fremont County Group Homes hosts the day reporting center now, but it only has room for roughly eight students, Cox said. She thinks the house on Gasser Road could accommodate up to 18.
The program does not have an immediate need for more space, but it almost outgrew its location last year.
Three students have been enrolled in the program so far this school year, and another will join it soon. The program ended last school year with eight students and graduated one from Lander Valley High School.
"We were pretty much at our capacity last year," Cox said.
So far, county buildings maintenance staff and a group from Set Free Church have worked to clean the house and paint it. However, it still is not ready for the alternatives program.
"It's in pretty poor condition," Cox said.
She said there are uneven floors, electrical issues and concerns about the staircase to the second floor.
Her program has a "limited" budget, Cox said, and she has to investigate regulations regarding school buildings and locations for Department of Family Services programs.
The plan is to meet with commissioners in two weeks to decide whether to move forward with the location.
Despite its drawbacks, Cox said she sees potential in the old building.
"There's some land," she said. "There's potential for a large garden and potential maybe to raise some animals."
Growing plants and raising animals would give the students pride and useful life skills, she said. Those activities also could involve them in the Fremont County Fair and the community.
The Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative opened in January after the juvenile wing of the Fremont County Detention Center closed in July 2012. Several county entities, including the sheriff's and attorney's offices, wanted to create the alternatives program to better serve youth rather than incarcerate them.
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