HomePine Bluff newsJack Jones Juvenile Justice Center in Jefferson County has seen increased demand...

Jack Jones Juvenile Justice Center in Jefferson County has seen increased demand over the last few years

Pine Bluff, Arkansas – The Jack Jones Juvenile Justice Center, a mainstay on 2nd Avenue in Jefferson County since the early 1990s, is facing new challenges. Established after a tax was passed by the voters of Jefferson County, the center has served not only the local community but also offered assistance to neighboring counties.

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Jefferson County Sheriff Lafayette Woods emphasized that the center was created to address the pressing need for a juvenile detention facility. Since its inception, it has operated with a maximum capacity of 86, a number that Woods and his team are careful not to exceed to avoid overcrowding and subsequent issues.

However, recent times have seen an uptick in serious violent crimes perpetrated by juveniles, leading to an increased demand for bed spaces at the center. “Before COVID, we would keep maybe less than 30, somewhere between 25 and 30,” Woods explained. But the nature of crimes has evolved, with homicides and other serious offenses becoming more prevalent among the juvenile population, not just in Central Arkansas but across the state.

To manage this high demand and ensure proper care and rehabilitation, the center must strategically allocate bed spaces. Woods mentioned that they consider the nature of the crime when other counties call for bed space. The center also explores alternatives to detention, such as releasing some juveniles on ankle monitors or diverting them to programs like the Arkansas Youth Challenge hosted at Camp Robinson. These programs aim to provide structure, discipline, and an educational foundation that can help steer teens away from violence and towards a more positive path in life.

While Woods is committed to helping other counties, his ultimate goal is to reduce the number of teens entering the juvenile justice system. “At the end of the day, we share a common interest of reducing crime, but also reduce recidivism in our facilities where we don’t have this revolving door crime,” he stated.

To address the root causes of teen violence, Woods is involved with the Group Violence Intervention, an organization in Pine Bluff. Over the last three months, they have been actively working to reach as many community teens as possible, seeking to intervene before violence becomes a chosen path. By focusing on prevention and providing alternative avenues for troubled youths, Woods and his team hope to see a future where juvenile centers like Jack Jones are needed less, not more.

Nathan Kim

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