The Alexander Youth Services Center, which houses about 140 juvenile offenders in a secure lockup, received some good news last week when the U.S. Justice Department reported that the facility had made "significant progress" in improving education and mental health treatment.
U.S. Justice Department officials toured the center in October as a followup to a lengthy investigation in 2002. The original investigation found deficiencies in mental health treatment, education and fire safety.
The Justice Department found that staff at Alexander still need more training. Also, the report noted delays in the facility receiving records of juveniles after they are admitted to the facility.
The average length of stay at Alexander is relatively short -- in June it averaged 58 days, in May it was 75 days and in April it was 104 days. That means any delay in receiving records can cause serious disruptions in the process of teaching the youths at the most appropriate level.
Youths at Alexander continue their high school studies after they are admitted. It is essential that their teachers know as soon as possible which courses they need to concentrate on so their academic work is not interrupted.
The Justice Department report found that academic offerings for girls, who make up 14 percent of the residents at Alexander, are not equal to the opportunities for boys at the center. An official at Alexander said that the facility is working to install computer equipment to better assess and teach girl residents.
An independent ombudsman, whose duty is to monitor the care and treatment of juveniles at Alexander and other juvenile detention centers, said that Alexander still needs to improve on getting mental health records promptly. Delays in getting records increase the risk of youths not getting proper treatment, he said.
The director of the Youth Services Division said a group is working to improve record keeping at the facility.
The Alexander facility is operated by Cornell Companies, a private firm under contract to the state Division of Youth Services.
State general revenue in October grew by $4 million over the same month last year, but the amount of taxes taken in by the state still fell short of anticipated forecasts.
According to a report by the state Department of Finance and Administration, the state collected $312 million in October, mostly in sales taxes and personal and corporate income taxes.
Individual income taxes increased by 4.1 percent over the previous year. Sales taxes increased by 2 percent over October of 2002, and corporate income taxes were down almost $11 million.
Revenue from corporate income taxes fluctuates dramatically because of business decisions as to when it is most favorable to pay taxes.
State general revenue is about $4 billion a year. The state also receives federal funding and revenue from dedicated taxes such as the motor fuels tax, which pays for highway maintenance and construction.