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Friday, July 11, 2014

Youth day reporting program could be alternative to Judge Riddel Boys Ranch

By Deb Gruver
The Wichita Eagle

A youth day reporting program could provide an alternative to the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, slated for closing by Sedgwick County.

Such a program would serve up to 30 juvenile offenders ages 13 to 17 at an estimated cost of $750,000, about half of what it costs the county to operate the boys ranch at Lake Afton.

County Manager William Buchanan has recommended closing the ranch as part of the county’s effort to wipe out a $9.3 million deficit by the end of next year. The ranch costs the county about $1.5 million a year to operate. The state gives the county $126 per day per boy, but the actual cost is $204. The ranch serves about 40 boys ages 14 to 20.

Day reporting for youth would serve moderate-risk offenders, which could include some of the boys now served at the ranch. High-risk offenders now at the ranch likely would go to other residential centers.

Larry Ternes, administrator of youth services for the county’s corrections department, said the recommended hours for a youth day reporting program would be 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. He estimated that juvenile offenders would be in the program an average of 120 days.

A majority of commissioners in recent weeks have said they want to consider all options before closing the ranch. The ranch is different from other youth residential centers in the state in that it only serves juvenile offenders from Sedgwick County.

Commissioners have discussed trying to keep the ranch open until the next legislative session to see whether the state would kick in more money to fund the youth residential center, which is considered a state program. But Buchanan has warned that the state has had several years to help and has not, saying that “actions speak louder than words.”

The state’s payment to the county has not increased since 2007 and is based on 2006 costs.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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