By: Sarah Snyder
ECTOR COUNTY - It has been called one of the most successful ways to rehabilitate a juvenile offender - and it's happening in Ector County. The Youth Detention Center provides a postadjudication program that helps troubled teens get ready to face the world after serving their jail time.
It's the only one here in West Texas and it's ranked as the best in the state. Juvenile offenders are sentenced to the detention center based on the type of crime committed. And after the first month they begin the postadjudication program. Staff members keep the kids busy with school, counseling, and physical education.
"We feel that the kids earned their way in, so they must earn their way out," Facility Administrator, James Jones, said.
They're West Texas teenagers convicted of all types of crimes.
"A lot of the kids when they come in here, their first thought is violence is an option," Jones said. "We see a lot of kids who are very violent and that's because they've grown up in chaotic families where they see that every day."
The first few days are spent adjusting to life behind bars, but 30 days later the teens are transitioned to the post-adjudication program focusing on what happens when they leave.
"We get some kids in here that are really violent and we work with them, we work with their social skills and we try to develop their skills, so that they can make the right choices when they leave here," Jones said.
"We set up a treatment plan and within that plan, we get with the parent, the child, and the probation officer," Juvenile Probation Officer Alex Ornelas, said. "And we get together and set up specific goals for the kid to achieve while he's in these programs: anger management, substance abuse, social skills, his education and things like that."
Administrators say it's an effort that is continuously embraced by taxpayers, running about $1 million each year. Officers say it's the specialized counseling that makes Ector County's program so unique.
"We try to bring out what's best in each child and we do that through treatment plans, what their good points are, and then the bad points we try to extinguish and give them other ways to cope and other ways to handle situations," Jones said.
And 86% of the inmates never have to set foot back in the center.
"I really enjoy working with the kids," Ornelas said. "It's challenging, but it's important that we work with these kids and not put them aside."
On Tuesday, May 12th, 2009, NewsWest 9 will talk with three teens who just graduated from the program. Be sure to tune in.