Westmoreland juvenile detention center wants to expand
Empty beds once prompted Westmoreland County officials to lay off staff and lower the cost for other counties to house children in the juvenile detention center.
On Monday, its administrator told county commissioners the Regional Youth Services Center in Hempfield needs to be expanded.
Director Rich Gordon proposed adding space to accommodate four more juveniles in the center.
“There are too many Westmoreland County kids in trouble,” Gordon said.
The facility, built more than three decades ago to house 24 juvenile offenders, was scaled back during a renovation project completed in 2010.
That $4.5 million project established eight beds for a youth shelter program and reduced the juvenile detention operation to 12 offenders. At the time, the inmate population at such facilities was decreasing across the nation.
Even with the reduced number of beds, the Westmoreland facility struggled.
The county laid off staff last year as population numbers sagged. Some days, there were no juveniles in the detention center.
Late last year, county commissioners lowered the rate it charges other counties from $276 to $199 a day in an effort to lure business.
Gordon said there were seven youths in the center on Monday.
Through the first three months of the year, the center averaged nearly nine juveniles a day.
Two weeks ago, there were too many juveniles in the center, prompting the county to send several youths to a detention center in Cambria County, officials said.
“You see a spiral there, that when the weather breaks the numbers go up,” said Westmoreland Juvenile Court Judge Michele Bononi.
Gordon said the center has been housing three juveniles who are charged with adult crimes, including Franklin Regional High School sophomore Alex Hribal, who is charged with 21 counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault in an April 9 knifing rampage in the Murrysville school.
Because Hribal and two other teenagers facing adult charges are not in the juvenile court system, the county receives no state reimbursements to help defray the costs to house them.
“Three of our beds are taken up with youthful offenders (charged as adults), so right now, we're a nine-bed facility,” Gordon said.
County commissioners said on Monday they would be receptive to increasing the number of beds in the facility. Gordon said there would be no cost to do so.
Space for the beds is available, and no staff would be added.
The county must pass a state inspection to qualify for a regulatory license for the beds that would be added. That process could take several months, Gordon said.
“Our numbers have increased. Prior to that, they were low — low to the point where we were laying off staff,” Gordon said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Charges advance for men accused in police scuffle at Fort Ligonier Days
- Hempfield man receives long-overdue Bronze Star for World War II service
- Longtime Greensburg District Judge Albert will seek fifth term
- Arnold man’s molestation conviction upheld
- 3 injured in 2-vehicle accident on Arona Road in Hempfield
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Rostraver Democrat aims for 1 of 3 open spots on Westmoreland County bench
- Endowment of $3.49B makes University of Pittsburgh 25th richest in U.S.
- Suspect in West Newton burglary sought; alleged accomplice arrested
- Braddock man held for trial in Jeannette assault, robbery
- Westmoreland County settles with fired public defender