The Problem of Juvenile Detention

Federal studies have long suggested that access to secure detention is a key ingredient of successful juvenile justice systems. Churchill County has struggled to accomplish that for more than 20 years.

Since 1989, when federal law was passed that disallowed the housing of juvenile in adult jails, Churchill County has recognized a growing problem with securing detention beds for our youth who pose a risk to themselves and/or others. We must contract with detention facilities in outlying counties to house our youth. However, this does not guarantee that these facilities will always have space, because they don't. It also does not guarantee that they will accept our youth; they have the right of refusal, which they exercise. Even though the other facilities do their best to accommodate us, the facts are that there are a limited number of beds and the needs for the beds are far greater.

The juvenile probation department has been transporting youth to out-of-county detention facilities at great cost ($170,000 a year on average). Churchill County has been at the mercy of these facilities that are required to release youth when overcrowding occurs and bed space is needed for the particular county's youth. Little consideration is given to the needs of Churchill County or the risk that these youth pose to our community.

Resolving the Problem

For the past 20 years, Churchill County has attempted to resolve this problem. In early 2009, with every other avenue explored and exhausted, including legislative action, explorations of various partnerships, and requests for federal and state dollars, Churchill County looked to resolve the detention crisis by taking the steps necessary to build its own facility.

In May 2009, the Board of County Commissioners approved the hiring of LCA Architects to design the facility. Using the basic design from the detention facility in Elko, Nevada, and using the same firm that designed the Elko facility, the county was able to save tens of thousands of dollars. Over the course of the next several months, meetings were held to discuss and modify the plans which were based on the detention facility in Elko. In December 2009, the project was advertised and bids were collected. On January 20, 2010, the project was awarded to K7 Construction out of Reno, Nevada.