"The deepest definition of youth is life as yet untouched by tragedy."
- Alfred North Whitehead
While the vast majority of Arizona's youths never have problems with criminal conduct, some do. There are many factors that can often derail these young people on the path to adulthood, leading them toward self-destructive behavior. The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections believes that rehabilitation, treatment, education and positive enforcement are the most effective avenues for getting our young people back on the right track to live happy, safe and productive lives. I firmly believe in the agency's vision: "Safer Communities Through Successful Youth."
As the new director for the department, one of my goals is to provide troubled youths with the best resources possible in order to turn their lives around. As part of this charge, I am making some changes to more effectively serve the entire state and provide the widest possible range of services to each of the youths in our custody so that we can successfully reintegrate them into our shared communities. Most prominent among these changes is the planned closure of Catalina Mountain School in Pima County.
By the end of September, the 70-74 youths currently at Catalina Mountain will be transferred to the Department's Adobe Mountain/Black Canyon complex in Maricopa County. This relocation will accomplish several goals. It allows the department to close its most outdated unit (Catalina Mountain was built in 1967); takes advantage of efficiencies by consolidating youths and services at a single complex; and makes available the state's full range of programs and treatment options to every child in the state's custody and care.
The goal of this plan is to provide a concentration of all resources and services on a single campus, making available specialized treatment for substance abuse, mental health concerns and sex offenders. Currently, specialized treatment for mental health issues and sex offenders is not available at Catalina Mountain School, which also houses only male youths. Consolidation also will allow the department to add a Skills-4-Work program to the Adobe Mountain School, enabling youths to learn trades associated with culinary arts, cosmetology, building trades, sewing, fire science, working with wildlife and other technical careers.
The consolidation of youths, staff and programs to a single complex will result in estimated cost savings to the state of nearly $1.5 million in fiscal 2012 and $3.8 million in fiscal 2013. In fact, we anticipate a savings of approximately $100 per youth, per day, by combining operations rather than maintaining the Catalina Mountain School.
I understand this closure and relocation will result in disruption for some department staffers and families of youths in custody. The department's goal is to employ or facilitate the employment of the majority of Catalina Mountain School employees. The concentration of staff at one facility will enhance coverage for youths in crisis and provide a larger, more professionally diverse staff with expertise in a range of areas.
Additionally, the department will make available video visitation in Tucson for families of youths from Southeastern Arizona who are relocated to the Adobe Mountain/Black Canyon complex. The department also will maintain the area's parole services, private-sector service providers and community service activities, and is exploring the establishment of halfway houses.
The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections takes seriously its mission to positively impact the thought process and behavior pattern of youths in its custody. I believe the consolidation of services and programs to our Adobe Mountain/Black Canyon complex will help us perform that mission more effectively and efficiently.
By joining together in this effort, we have the tremendous opportunity to provide a positive outcome for troubled youths.
Charles Flanagan is director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.