Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jun 2003
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Contact:  2003 Tahoe Daily Tribune
Author: Kathryn Reed, Tahoe Daily Tribune 
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


Eight. That's the age of the youngest offender being held in Douglas
County's juvenile detention facility at the lake.

When members of Lake Tahoe Leadership descended upon the facility earlier
this month there were six boys and four girls ranging in age from 8-17. The
average age is 11, with domestic problems topping the list of offenses.

Their stay can be a matter of hours or several months. Many are repeat
offenders; some finding their way back to the juvi jail more than a dozen
times. About 420 children circulate through the center annually.

"Much of (the crime) is a child striking a parent, a sibling or
grandparents. It's horrible to watch how kids do this today," said Ray
Finnegan, juvenile probation officer. "There are a lot of drugs. It's very

He believes the media and video games contribute to the violence.

As difficult as the job is, Finnegan said the staff acts as surrogate
parents for the kids -- setting a positive example that may not have been
provided for them before.

First names are off-limits. Adults and children are addressed with courtesy
titles and last names as a token of respect.

It's not an easy life -- after all they are there to be punished. Children
get their own room which consists of a stainless steel sink and toilet, and
a mattress that looks like an old gym mat that fits onto a metal frame.

Like an adult facility, there is a mandatory dress code. Green pants, an
orange shirt, orange socks, a blue sweat shirt and blue shoes are issued to
each detainee.

"We recycle them, including the underwear," Finnegan said.

Each morning the young inmates get up at 5. School is from 8:15 a.m. to 3
p.m. Bedtime is 9 p.m., with lights out an hour later.

Computers have been donated, as well as other supplies. All grade levels are
taught, with older kids able to work on their GED.

Face to face visits with parents are not allowed unless there is a special
request from the Probation Department.

The lake facility at Stateline is designed to be the most secure site for
juveniles throughout Nevada. Because of this, the department is able to
supplement its $535,000 budget by housing offenders from other counties.

And some counties find the local facility less expensive. Nye County has
driven offenders 400 miles to the lake instead to Clark County because the
Southern Nevada county charges so much.

Across the hall is the adult facility. But there is no intermingling of the
adults and children.

"If we didn't have meth, we probably wouldn't have this jail," said Deputy
Anthony Freiberg, emphasizing the fact that many at the lake are held on
drug charges. More of the serious adult offenders are sent to the main
facility in Minden.

Usually there are two people to a room. This is because inmates are less
likely to hurt themselves when someone else is in the room.

They can watch television and play checkers. By law they are allocated at
least one hour in the recreation yard. Inmates are allowed three visits a
week, each lasting no more than 30 minutes.
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