Juvenile budgeting

Monday, August 28, 2006

Twelve of the employees who work for the juvenile division of the 32nd Judicial Circuit are paid through state grants. The grant employees are teachers who tutor juveniles after school. The division employs six full-time deputy juvenile officers.

Under the Missouri Circuit Court Budget Committee's new formula for allocating funding, those grant employees are now counted as staff. The 12 grant employees add up to 4 1/2 additional full-time employees for the circuit, which includes Cape Girardeau, Bollinger and Perry counties.

The budget committee now views the 32nd circuit's juvenile division as overstaffed, so the state intends to reallocate five of the positions to other circuits through attrition. The positions lost almost certainly will belong to the tutors. Juvenile officer Randy Rhodes points out that juvenile officers and tutors are not interchangeable.

Rhodes and Circuit Judge Benjamin Lewis are both critical of this decision, which essentially penalizes the circuit's juvenile office for taking advantage of every resource available to it.

Our juvenile justice system is a good one. Besides being patently unfair, this new approach to budgeting for the circuit courts will only cost the juveniles the system is supposed to help.

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