Sixty of the 160 beds at the Cincinnati’s Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center are empty, but it’s not because there aren’t enough offenders to fill them, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Budget cuts forced court officials to close part of the detention center, meaning more youths than ever accused of committing crimes are being released to low-security programs or sent home all together.
Officials have enough room only to hold youths accused of felonies, and even some of those are out in low-level security placements. “Once we release the easy kids, what’s left is a pretty scary bunch,” said Hamilton County Juvenile Court Administrator Mark Reed. Two years ago the juvenile detention center could hold 160 youths; by the end of the year that number will likely drop to 80 due to another round of budget cuts expected for 2010. The cuts come at a time when violent juvenile crime – such as burglaries and robberies – are up a whopping 20 percent in Hamilton County. Overall, juvenile crime is down five percent in 2008 on top of a five percent decline in 2007. Gun crimes are at a historic high.