By Amy Chaffins
Pope County Tribune
Pope County has severed ties with the West Central Regional Juvenile Center (WCRJC) in Moorhead - all juveniles will now be housed at Prairie Lakes Youth Program (PLYP) in Willmar.
Pope County Commissioner Gordy Wagner said, "It's a matter of logistics."
During Tuesday's county board meeting, commissioners voted 5-0 to move their juvenile detention to PLYP because the facility is closer in proximity to Pope County and the per diem is at a lower rate than WCRJC.
According to Melanie Courrier, Pope County's Probation Director, over the last four years, Pope County housed juveniles at WCRJC at a rate of about $200 per day per juvenile.
Pope County has a contract with PLYP for $159 per day per juvenile.
Pope County entered into a temporary contract with PLYP last February and has taken its juveniles to Willmar since then. At the same time, Pope County maintained its membership with WCRJC.
After its positive experiences with PLYP since February, Pope County leaders decided to commit to using their service permanently.
"As much as I regret pulling out of Moorhead, it's only fair to them that we pull membership and be fair about it," Courrier said.
WCRJC operates under a cooperative service agreement with Pope and 12 other counties: Becker, Otter Tail, Traverse, Big Stone, Wadena, Clay, Stearns, Wilkin, Douglas, Grant, Stevens and Todd.
Pope County had been a member of the WCRJC since 1986.
Courrier told commissioners, "There are some really good people [at WCRJC] - they've done a good job with our kids. But, it's not whether they have a better program or not, it's about logistics. Prairie Lakes is closer for the sheriff's office to transport and it's closer for families to go and visit."
Prairie Lakes Youth Program offers both secure and non-secure residential programming.
According to the facility's web site, while being detained, juveniles receive education, counseling, chemical dependency and community service opportunities.
Students receive six hours of school per day year-round with credit for graduation.
After transitioning out of the detention program, there are also group home opportunities for boys and girls. In an independent living program, young people learn how to set and accomplish individual goals, how to manage their time, and how to manage stress. They will have the opportunity to earn incentives by meeting expectations and making progress on the individual goals.
Courrier told commissioners, "PLYP has detention facilities, but they also have group homes. The kids can move from detention to group home facilities which is a benefit."
Currently, there are no juveniles from Pope County housed at the WCRJC facility.