July 12, 2011
The state will close the Catalina Mountain School on North Oracle Road by Oct. 1, the director of the Department of Juvenile Corrections said Thursday.
Director Charles Flanagan said it isn't sound fiscal or correctional practice to operate the Tucson school plus two others just north of Phoenix.
Catalina Mountain School will stop admitting kids "in about a week," Flanagan said.
He told employees about the closure at a meeting early Thursday afternoon.
The shutdown will save the state nearly $1.5 million this fiscal year and $3.8 million in 2013, he said.
The 74 males at the 124-bed Tucson school will be moved to Black Canyon and Adobe Mountain, which are operated as one facility.
The Tucson school is the one closing for several reasons, he said, including:
• All girls and juveniles who are sex offenders or need mental-health treatment are already sent to the Phoenix facilities.
• Tucson doesn't have as many career-training programs, and fewer options for moving and managing boys who have behavioral problems during their incarceration.
• Youths now at Catalina Mountain will have better access to programs for substance dependence. Flanagan said 90 percent of the kids have substance use histories and roughly 60 percent are substance-dependent.
a "huge loss"
Pima County Juvenile Court officials were surprised by the announcement.
While the court does not send a lot of children to the facility, officials said the move could be a detriment to youths who won't have direct access to family and friends.
Judge Karen Adam, who presides over Pima County Juvenile Court, described the facility's closure as a "huge loss."
It's important to place youths in their community because they can receive visits from friends and family, and it's easier for them to reintegrate to society, Adam said.
Juvenile Court Director Rik Schmidt echoed Adam's concerns.
Flanagan, the state's Juvenile Corrections director, agreed that a downside to the closure is that some kids will be farther away from family.
However, he said, only 15 percent of the youths receive family visits at least once every two weeks. Only 30 percent of the boys at Catalina Mountain are ever visited by relatives, he added.
Juvenile Corrections will set up a video visitation system to ease the burden of families driving to Maricopa County.
The department will move its parole office to central Tucson.
About a quarter of the boys at Catalina Mountain are from Pima County, with 15 percent from Cochise. Many of the rest will actually be closer to their homes once they move. They were sent to Tucson to keep the head count up.
The average stay in the state juvenile system is about seven months, but it is about three months at Catalina Mountain.
Most are in the system for property crimes.
There are between 30 and 40 Pima County juveniles in the state's three facilities, said Pima County's Schmidt. The number committed there has decreased over the years. In 2010, Pima's Juvenile Court sent 61 juveniles to state facilities. About five years ago, it sent more than 100, he said.
employee, volunteer losses
Besides the relocation of the detained youths, the loss of employees and 119 volunteers are the other downsides to Catalina Mountain's closure, Flanagan said.
"These people are committed to this profession," he said. "These are good, good people."
He said he hopes to find places for the volunteers in community corrections and parole services.
Some of the 124 Tucson employees will be offered the 68 jobs to be added at the Phoenix schools, he said. Transfer offers will be based on state employment rules, and he estimated about 30 will end up working in Phoenix.
Six employees will remain to provide security at the Tucson campus through the end of the department's lease next June 30.
The state owns the buildings on land leased from the state Land Department. That department will decide whether to sell the property or lease it to someone else.
The Phoenix schools have about 330 youths and about 270 vacant beds.
In the last fiscal year, it cost $132,218 to house a child at Catalina Mountain, compared with $95,765 at the Phoenix schools.
"That's still too high in our estimation," Flanagan said of Phoenix, although he said there is no national standard for juvenile costs because state laws differ. Arizona juvenile corrections houses kids up to age 18, while in some states it's longer.
DID YOU KNOW?
Catalina Mountain School, at 14500 N. Oracle Road, was built in the late 1960s, and is the oldest of the state's three juvenile centers, said Department of Juvenile Corrections Director Charles Flanagan.