Five year agreement ensures continued care of Union County Juvenile detainees with Essex County; Union County Detention Center to close on February 28th, 2019
UNION COUNTY, NJ—In a cost-savings measure that will save millions, while ensuring the continued care of its youth offenders, the County of Union today announced it has finalized a five-year agreement with Essex County to provide juvenile detention services. The agreement has an option for renewal.
County officials decided to seek a shared services agreement as the number of County juvenile detainees at the facility have continued to show a long-term dramatic decline. The average daily population of County juveniles has declined from a high of more than 43 residents in January, 2012 to an average of just about ten this past year—a decline of more than 77 percent.
“While it is no longer feasible to continue to maintain a facility due to the declining numbers, we sought a solution that is aimed at preserving the rights, safety and dignity of incarcerated youth while minimizing the impact on any affected employees,” said Union County Manager Edward T. Oatman. “We believe this is the best possible course, and one that will realize substantial savings for the County.”
The Union County Juvenile Detention Facility in Linden will close effective Feb. 28th, 2019, and Union County detainees will be transferred to the Essex County Juvenile Detention facility in Newark.
“We have been carefully reviewing the possibility of the juvenile detention center closure for months, and this decision has not been made lightly,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “This is a financially responsible agreement that provides benefits to our County’s taxpayers, realizes efficiencies and provides proper facilities for our juveniles with comparable services. This closure will bring a 24.6 million dollar savings to the County of Union within the first three years alone.”
Chairman Granados added the County had considered other facilities during the process: “The Essex County facility is nationally accredited, offers an all-day school, recreation programs including a swimming pool, and we will provide transportation for the youth and their families.”
In all, 82 County employees are impacted by the measure including: 56 juvenile detention officers, 12 senior juvenile detention officers, seven supervisors, and seven civilian employees.
The civilian employees may be eligible to be rehired by Union County. Additionally, Essex County has agreed to interview qualified Union County Juvenile Center employees in good standing, including Juvenile Detention Officers and Supervisors for any openings that may occur in their facility. To the extent possible, the Essex County Juvenile Detention facility will hire these employees to fill any vacancies they have available.
Additional resources will be provided to remaining laid-off workers. The County’s Workforce Development Board will be made available and separated workers can take advantage of job training, resume assistance, and other employment programs. Finally, the County of Union will contact other counties throughout New Jersey to attempt to place separated workers.
Overall, officials attribute the decline in detainees at the Union County facility in large part to the effectiveness of the state’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. This is a comprehensive approach that provides mechanisms to detain fewer youth and relies on proven, family-focused interventions, education, mental health treatment and opportunities for positive youth development.
In order to provide convenience to affected families of the detainees, the County of Union is planning to offer transportation to the Essex County facility. It should be noted that the Essex County facility is in close proximity, only an additional five (5.8) miles from the Union County Courthouse.
While no immediate determination has been made for the re-use of the Union County Detention Center once it is closed, the County will explore the most effective and efficient repurposing of the facility, added County Manager Oatman.