Stanislaus County supervisors approved the design Tuesday for a 60-bed juvenile rehabilitation facility in west Modesto.
The $24 million lockup will house court-committed minors who could benefit from education and behavioral health programs if the county had the appropriate facility. The site is adjacent to the county's 158-bed Juvenile Hall on Blue Gum Avenue.
Of the 20 most populous counties in California, Stanislaus is the only one without a commitment facility for minors convicted of burglary, assault and other crimes.
About 70 of the 141 minors in Juvenile Hall this week would be eligible for the new facility, said Jerry Powers, the county's chief probation officer.
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As a result of restructuring the state's juvenile justice system, young offenders previously sent to state correctional facilities became the responsibility of the county.
Many are sent to group homes or foster care outside the county. Others are hard to place because they are flight risks, so they languish in Juvenile Hall.
Young people, ages 14 to 17, will be housed for months in the new center as they participate in programs.
Funding for the project includes $18 million from the state and $6 million in matching funds from the county. Officials said the county will wait until the state comes through with the grant before moving ahead with construction.
The county hopes to hire a construction firm in summer 2011 and complete the center in 2012.
Plans for the 47,000-square-foot center include dormitories for 45 boys and a 15-bed housing unit for girls, as well as classrooms, a multi-purpose gymnasium and visitation area, kitchen, culinary program classroom, and recreation yard.
According to the Lionakis consulting firm, the center is designed to downplay the institutional environment.
Supervisors approved the design and authorized a $41,000 contract amendment with Lionakis for a two-way radio system, card-access system and safety study.
County officials are working on funding the long-term operating costs for the center, but money should be available to run the center for the first few years, Powers said.
When the minors are moved to the new center, it will reduce the staffing levels and the $7 million annual cost of operating the main detention facility. While there is one staff member for every 10 wards at the existing facility, the new center only requires a 1-to-15 staffing ratio.
The new center will require additional funding in four to five years as more juveniles enter the system, Powers said.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2321.