The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between Gila County and the Pinal County Justice Center to house and treat detained juveniles was renewed at the Nov. 3 meeting of the board of supervisors.

The IGA started in May 2017 for a three-year period. It provided that Pinal County would house and treat Gila County detained juveniles.

“The IGA has proven to be a successful and cost-effective alternative to housing and treating juvenile offenders in-county. Juvenile Probation would like to continue using the Pinal County Youth Justice Center for this purpose,” said Steve Lessard, chief probation officer.

He said the change in juvenile detention saved the county about 90% of his department’s budget for youth offenders, as it resulted in closing the local facility.

“The Pinal County Youth Justice Center is at the forefront of evidence-based practices and its facilities are exceptional,” Lessard added.

The county’s savings from the arrangement could take a hit in the next two years.

Lessard said Pinal County is expected to increase its daily cost of care for juvenile detainees. Currently, the cost is $170 per day, but that is likely to increase to $300 per day in 2021 and go up to $347 per day in 2022.

To address the increase Lessard, working with Division I Superior Court Judge Bryan Chambers, who handles the county’s juvenile cases, has two alternatives. The first is to start youth home detention using ankle monitors. He said with ankle monitors the cost would be about $7 a day instead of the anticipated $300. The detainees would still get education and counseling services, as well as have access to the programs to help them become productive citizens.

This program would only be for those youth found not to be a threat to society or themselves. Those who pose a public safety risk would remain in detention.

The second alternative would be to use juvenile detention facilities in Yavapai County, he said. The cost is about $250 per day, and that facility would primarily be used for serious youth offenders in northern Gila County and those in long-term detention.

The approval of the IGA with Pinal County is from Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 31, 2021, with automatic one-year renewals up to nine years.

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