Fewer incarcerated juveniles in Hennepin Countyby Dan Olson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The number of juveniles behind bars in Hennepin County is down by nearly half from five years ago, the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative reported Thursday.
Hennepin County officials said that helping juveniles keep court appointments is one reason rates are down sharply.
Judges often issue bench warrants for juveniles who don't show for their court appearance. That often leads to an arrest the next time police stop the young person. Hennepin County Judge Lucy Wieland said the county uses adult volunteers and others to find families.
"Our community coaches go out, find the kids, tell them when their court date is and bring them into court," Wieland said.
Wieland said the biggest juvenile detention problem judges are attempting to address is 90 percent of the young people behind bars are minorities, far out of proportion to their numbers in the general population.
Wieland said race disparity is the county's major juvenile detention problem, and she said judges are looking for explanations.
"The judges have been looking for the last year at our release decisions and making sure ... that when we look at who we release and who we hold that there's not disparity based on race when you're looking at juveniles with the same offense and the same criminal history," Wieland said.
Besides many fewer juveniles behind bars, Wieland said police statistics show that juvenile crime is also down sharply.