Judge pushes for JDC to move to sheriff

Judge pushes for JDC to move to sheriff

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The White River Juvenile Detention Center is under the umbrella of the Independence County judge's office, but the judge wants to change that.

Judge Robert Griffin wants to move the detention center to the sheriff's department.

Griffin said he does not know why the JDC is part of his position's responsibility, but he does know five of the 14 juvenile facilities in Arkansas are under a county judge.

"Anything that's dealing with law enforcement or detainment of people I feel like should be under the sheriff," he said. "If you had a shortage of guards in one facility, you could switch around to assist and fill gaps. It just makes more sense. But that will be a decision of the quorum court. I have brought that forward and recommended that as the probably the best course."

Judge Griffin also recommended the quorum court increase the JDC administrator's salary by $10,000, making it about $45,000.

"The amazing thing is we've already had double or more the applicants of the last time we advertised the job so the position does have an interest," he said. "The discussion about salary has definitely had an impact on who's interested."

Judge Griffin argued that the JDC administrator deserves to make more money.

"The discussion has been held that maybe the chief deputy doesn't make that much or maybe the current jail administrator doesn't make that much," he said. "But it's so intricate what they have to do for the juveniles. It requires a broader set of skills, and certainly those people would be eligible to apply for the job."

Judge Griffin said the juveniles require greater care. For example, the state requires schooling in juvenile detention centers, which is not required in the jail because it houses adult detainees.

"Many of these children come in and they have been traumatized in one way or another," Griffin said. "They have not been allowed a normal childhood so they have accelerated development and it's sometimes very bad."

Judge Griffin hopes the quorum court approves his recommendations at Monday's meeting.

He added his office has already implemented a new hiring process after a juvenile inmate accused guard Bradley Kyle Hopper of sexual abuse.

"The initial background checks come to this office after they've reviewed them at the facility," he said. "We review them here, initial them and mark them either yes or no. So that process will be continued with the drug test and psychological evaluations results. If the sheriff's office should take it over, I would expect the same process should be followed."

Judge Griffin said he reviewed and approved 3 guard applicants Wednesday morning. Two are returning guards.

"Particularly this time around, we have seen several past employees who are interested in coming back," he said.

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