New Juvie Hall in East Salinas? No Way, Some Say
January 29, 2013
(Photo: Monterey County Chief Probation Officer Manuel Real in front of the proposed site for a new juvenile hall)
Monterey County needs a new juvenile hall—but where to put it? Not East Salinas, say some, who led a staunch opposition at a meeting at the proposed construction site yesterday.
Juvenile Hall, a more than half-century old building near the Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, is in desperate disrepair, said the county's Chief Probation Officer Manuel Real. The hall is inefficiently designed, has suffered damage through time, and doesn’t have the facilities needed to adequately care for youth. A former washroom, where a table replaced a washing machine, is where therapists meet with kids, he said.
Now the county is holding a $35 million state grant, has the additional funds needed to complete the estimated $52 million project, and is looking to act.
Officials have pegged a grassy, county-owned property also near the Natividad hospital to build a new juvenile hall, which would be able to accommodate 150 youth.
Real said this is the best option, in part because it’s close to the hospital, which makes it easy for officers to obtain medical clearance for offenders. Also, the site would be near the Juvenile Court, which youth need to attend daily.
“It’s the most cost-effective (land) that meets our needs,” said Real.
Some community members disagree.
“I think it’s a lack of vision, and I’m opposed to this,” said Kathryn Ramirez, a lifelong resident of the area. She’s also an official with the Salinas Union High School District, but did not attend the meeting in that capacity.
Ramirez, and others, had a host of questions for the probation officer, like: What’s the rate of medical emergencies that justifies placement of the facility near the hospital? Was land considered in other areas, near other hospitals? Where do most of the juvenile offenders come from?
Real didn’t have specifics for all the questions, but did say officials had considered sites in places like Marina, but deemed the Salinas location to be most appropriate. Originally officials considered building the facility on the site of the current hall, but that would have been too costly and time-consuming. Real also said that historically, about half the offenders in juvenile hall and in the juvenile justice system come from Salinas.
“I don’t want this in my backyard,” said Ramirez. She added that a better solution might be to implement more prevention intervention programs, or to move the less central One Stop Career Center to the property.
Real said that the city's prevention efforts and alternative programs seem to be helping stem juvenile crime, though violence is still a serious issue. Just the day before, a teenager was shot and killed in North Salinas. Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin, who didn't voice an opinion on the location of the new hall, later defended Real's "dynamite" work in keeping kids out of jail.
Others suggested the proposed site would do better as green space or a park, and worried a detention facility would cast negativity throughout the community.
If the project is approved by the state, there will be an Environmental Impact Report, which will allow for public review and input, officials said.
If the project moves forward, it could be three to five years before the hall is completed.