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Saying incarceration alone doesn't work, Olmsted County closes its juvenile detention center

The closure mirrors a nationwide trend as communities shift away from juvenile detention centers.
The Olmsted County Juvenile Detention Center in Rochester

The Olmsted County Juvenile Detention Center in Rochester

After 22 years, a small juvenile detention center in Rochester is closing.

The Olmsted County Juvenile Detention Center says its 16-bed facility’s occupancy has declined over the past five years. This is partially because the county has switched its focus to restorative justice initiatives, the county said.

“The evidence shows that juvenile incarceration alone does not work; in fact, in many cases, it can lead to juveniles experiencing further issues with the law as adults,” Dodge-Filmore-Olmsted Community Corrections director Travis Gransee said in a statement. 

"That’s why with each juvenile we work with, we take a multi-systemic approach that involves connecting the youth and the family with community services."

The move comes as advocates push for the release of children held in juvenile detention centers to limit the spread of COVID-19, but the county has not yet clarified to what extent the pandemic was a factor.

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Instead, the county emphasized that operating the center no longer made financial sense with so few occupants – mirroring a national trend.

Nationwide, the number of incarcerated youth decreased from 107,493 in 1999 to 43,580 in 2017, according to Kids Count Data Center.

The center's two occupants have moved to a facility in Dakota County, and its 11 full-time employees may transition to other county jobs while maintaining their salary, the county said. 

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