The juvenile justice system in Michigan’s Wayne County is teetering toward a crisis so dire that services for troubled teens could end as soon as April, reports the Detroit News. The county this month cut the $180-million system's budget by 15 percent. Private companies that provide drug tests, counseling, tethering, and monitoring to 2,300 delinquents say they may soon face tough choices: Go bankrupt or refuse care to youths when the money runs dry.
Public safety concerns are prompting a suburban group of government leaders to take up the issue when it meets today. “What's going to happen if no one is monitoring these kids when they're on tether or no one is administering their drug tests?” asked Belleville Mayor Thomas Fielding, a leader in the group. The cuts are the latest in a series of controversies dogging the 5-year-old system that was once lauded as a model public-private partnership. Soaring costs and complaints that youths were being locked up as far away as Indiana caused Wayne County to create its own juvenile justice system in 1999. Unlike other counties that rely on the state to handle troubled teens, Wayne uses a mix of state and county money to pay five private contractors to do the job. Last year, they made $90.6 million. It seems to have worked: Violent crime by minors has been cut in half; caseloads are down 50 percent to about 1,800; and the county saved tens of millions of dollars by placing fewer kids in expensive lockups, said Daniel Chaney, county director of juvenile justice service.