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Lipke asks committee to reconsider Cape County detention center closing

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Cape Girardeau County Juvenile Center is one of six centers across the state of Missouri that will likely be closing its doors for budgetary reasons.
(Laura Simon)
Associate Circuit Judge Scott Lipke is asking the state's circuit court budget committee to reconsider its decision to close the Cape Girardeau County Juvenile Detention Center, a move he says would put the area's juveniles at greater disadvantage as well as sabotage efforts to build a new center.

Lipke, who oversees the 32nd Judicial Circuit's juvenile courts, sent a four-page letter Tuesday to Judge Steven Ohmer, chairman of the committee that announced last week it was closing six of the state's juvenile detention centers, including the one in Cape Girardeau.

"It is my humble opinion that the best interests of the juveniles would not be served by closure of our detention center," Lipke wrote in the letter, which was copied to Missouri Supreme Court Justice William Price and several area legislators.

The center would close Jan. 1, unless the committee reverses its decision, and the 13 detention center employees will lose their jobs.

Ohmer, a judge in St. Louis, said Thursday he had received Lipke's letter, which he called "very thoughtful." Lipke's letter of appeal will be on the agenda for the commission's next meeting June 10, Ohmer said.

"We're going to look at this, we'll review it," Ohmer said. "We'll take a look, if people thought we missed something or whatever. But the committee made its decision. I guess it's probably as final as it could be. We looked at this pretty hard."

In the letter, Lipke writes that he understands the committee decided to close the centers based on four areas: the age and condition of each facility, the average daily population of the facility over a year, the percentage of full capacity at which the facility was occupied over a year and the proximity of the facility to other juvenile detention centers.

"There is no argument that our detention facility is dated and in need of various repairs," Lipke said.

He also concedes that the average daily population of three and yearly percentage capacity of about 30 percent is relatively low. But Lipke argues that the center is "almost being punished" for having low numbers, which is the court's goal -- to have fewer juveniles in detention.

Lipke hopes the commission will consider several factors -- that a new facility was in the hopper, that the center offers several other services other than detaining juveniles and that having low average daily numbers is indicative that the juvenile office staff is doing good work.

After talking about a new center to replace the 40-year-old center on Merriwether for more than a decade, the Cape Girardeau County Commission this year had set aside money to commission an architectural review, Lipke said.

"This decision couldn't have come at a worse time," Lipke said in an interview with the Southeast Missourian. "The county commission was poised to do something and then this happens."

The numbers that the budget committee looked at -- an average daily residency of three -- is misleading, Lipke said.

"We are not just talking about three juveniles being served on a daily basis," Lipke said. "The criteria used by the committee in making its decision does not appear to take into consideration the number of assessments taking place at the detention center or the other services being provided."

The center detained 408 juveniles in 2010. In addition, 85 juveniles come through the center each day reporting for probation drug test screening and 450 reported for community service work last year. The center also brought in and immediately referred 35 juveniles for hospitalization and psychiatric services over the same period.

Lipke said the juvenile office is already implementing programs that keep those numbers low, such as the GPS shackle program and drug court.

"That's what they're wanting -- fewer people in the facility," Lipke said. "So basically we're getting penalized because we're already achieving the results they want."

Lipke hopes his letter doesn't fall on deaf ears.

"My hope is it opens up a dialogue and see if there's any feasible way we can keep our facility open," Lipke said.



Pertinent address:

325 Merriwether St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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Maybe the commission shouldn't have dragged their feet for TEN YEARS in trying to get a new facility that would incorporate the detention center and administration office...

-- Posted by monochromatic on Thu, Apr 21, 2011, at 9:49 PM

Given the 4 criteria, it seems like a good decision to cut the funding for the juvenile center here in town - Moving to a more regional model is more efficient. The number of assessments and other services provided is no different than that of other centers. It seems we all want to preach spending cuts until these spending cuts affect our own. Decision has been made; let's move on.

-- Posted by Beaker on Thu, Apr 21, 2011, at 10:38 PM

Be a legitimate use for part of the old Federal Building.

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 6:00 AM

This is a transfer of cost from the State to other places. The police pay for overtime and transportation, the hospitals pay for emergency room time, and the parents and community will pay for no consequences for juvenile illegal behavior, because let's face it. The police are not going to drive Johnny 100 miles. They have better things to do, They will take him home where he will turn around and do more "stuff".

-- Posted by rodgerdodger on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 8:14 AM

I don't believe the justification to keep this facility open is there, with an average of 3 juveniles per day and a out dated building that needs major repair. We have many cuts coming this is just the start I know all of us say well cut him but don't cut me the problem is it don't work that way we are in a very serious financial situtaion not only in this State but nationwide. The only way I see to start climbing out of this mess is with budget reductions I don't like it nobody likes it but many States, cities and counties all across the country is downsizing from public safety to public works we are out of money plain and simple and until we start regaining revenues back to pay for all of these services were all are going to continue going through this.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 10:09 AM

I agree with Lipke. We need this center to stay open. I can not imagine the impact this could have on area law enforcement. Hopefully, they will reconsider.

-- Posted by Its me on Fri, Apr 22, 2011, at 2:16 PM

Many yrs ago I was a teen caught in an abusive homelife My response was 2 run away from home I spent much time in the tiny Juvenile Center in my Wisc hometown I wasn't a criminal I was a neglected abused child But when they closed our tiny Center & began sending juveniles 2 a larger facility far from home I was thrown in with teens who'd been arrested for things like assault prostitution & drugs I learned Many things from those kids I wouldn't have learned otherwise It Did teach me 2 survive but . . . Don't send our children someplace else They need 2 stay in their Own communitity Trust me on this one! This is a Bad move! I thank God my kids are grown now

-- Posted by justagranny on Sat, Apr 23, 2011, at 1:03 PM

Justagranny you may be, but there is a lot of opposition to the Casey Foundation's ( and now the State of Missouri)neglect of victims rights by relasing too many juveniles too soon:

Regional detention and treatment programs were tried 30 years ago. Am I the only one old enough to remember Boonville?


-- Posted by rodgerdodger on Sat, Apr 23, 2011, at 9:56 PM

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