Mayor John Peyton was today joined by Sheriff John Rutherford, Rep. Mia Jones, Rep. Audrey Gibson, District 7 Jacksonville City Council member Dr. Johnny Gaffney, Department of Juvenile Justice North Region Director Paula Polhill and Chief Wayne Clark for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking another important step taken in The Jacksonville Journey—reinstating a fully-functional Duval County Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC).
'One of the messages that resonated from the work of The Jacksonville Journey was the important role that youth intervention programs play in helping to divert juveniles from the wrong course and set them on a path toward a productive future,' said Mayor Peyton. 'The cornerstone of this community's youth intervention response is provided by the Juvenile Assessment Center, which serves more than 7,700 local youth annually. The resources provided to juveniles and families by the staff at the assessment center will help to change the lives of youth in our community. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of everyone who played a role in helping to restore this tremendous community asset.'
The restoration of this valuable program was a key recommendation of The Jacksonville Journey Targeted Intervention and Rehabilitation Subcommittee chaired by John Coxwell and is the result of significant city, state and community partner collaboration. While the program began operating from the remodeled facility again in October 2008, today marks the center's official reopening.
Due to limited financial resources, the JAC ceased its operations in January 2005 and began conducting preliminary screenings over the phone as a stopgap measure.
In January 2008, Sheriff Rutherford requested an allocation of $223,760 in drug forfeiture money, for renovations to the building at 1283 E. Eighth St. Renovations included upgrading or repairing electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems; installing security barriers, proximity card readers and systems; creating a secure, confidential interview room; replacing Plexiglas in the holding cells; installing new flooring and painting.
This recommendation received the full support of the mayor and the city council, and was augmented by an additional funding allocation of $328,236 through The Jacksonville Journey. This allowed for contracting with Wackenhut Corporation, a private security firm, to provide the required security staff 24-hours a day, seven days a week at the Duval JAC. As a fully functional center, law enforcement patrol officers are able to return to patrol duties and the youth are turned over to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
'This center's reopening to full functionality means our officers don't have to deal with the very difficult and time consuming challenge of finding a custodian or parent to turn these children over to, after they are picked up,' said Sheriff Rutherford. 'Additionally, through these important partnerships with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Children and Family Services and other non-profits, the intervention many of them need will also be identified and offered quickly and efficiently. I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work in getting the center reopened.'
With funding from the State, the DJJ provides staff for detention screenings (about $607,000 annually) for youth to determine if they should be released to a parent/guardian or placed in detention. The JAC will also screen for substance abuse and mental health issues and provide referrals for further diagnostic testing, as appropriate, in partnership with Gateway Community Services, Inc. and the Youth Crisis Center through the Department of Children and Families.
'The Duval Juvenile Assessment Center is a critical component in the array of services offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice,' said Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Rod Love. 'It is the front door to DJJ services and other partners, and it allows us to divert children who may be better served elsewhere. It gives us the ability to concentrate state resources on intervention for higher-risk youth, while protecting the citizens of Jacksonville.'
Additionally, the DJJ provides building maintenance (about $85,284 annually), oversees the daily operation of the Duval JAC and reports regularly to the JAC Advisory Committee.
The most comprehensive public safety program in the city's history, The Jacksonville Journey focuses on three areas key to improving public safety in Jacksonville: prevention, intervention and enforcement.