82 employees were affected by the move for Union County to partner with the Essex County Juvenile Center.
A decline in the number of youths housed at the Union County Detention Center in Linden has prompted the facility to announce that it’s closing next month. All remaining youngsters will be moved to the Essex County Juvenile Detention Center in Newark.
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The merger between the two facilities, which becomes official Feb. 28, 2019, is set to save Union County $24.6 million, but it will also effect 82 employees, county officials said.
Civilian workers may be rehired at the Essex County facility, or in other Union County departments, officials said. Those detention center employees left without a job will be eligible for job training and other assistance, officials said.
The reduction in youth detained in the Union facility was credited to the state’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which provides services and programs to keep young people out of trouble and works to detains only the most serious youth offenders.
In 2012, Union County’s Juvenile Detention Center had about 43 youth residents and currently has about 10, a decline of 77 percent, the county reported this week.
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“While it is no longer feasible to continue to maintain a facility due to the declining numbers, we sought a solution that is aimed at preserving the rights, safety and dignity of incarcerated youth while minimizing the impact on any affected employees,” said Union County Manager Edward T. Oatman.
Sharing youth and detention centers are not uncommon for counties in New Jersey.
In February 2015, the Union County Juvenile Center, which has a capacity for about 76 inmates, began housing juvenile offender from Hudson County which bumped Union’s youth inmate population from about 28 youths daily to slightly more than 50.
Hudson County paid Union County approximately $2.1 million annually in 2015 and 2016 for the move which included more than 30 male juveniles according to a 2014 announcement.
Once Union County received the boys from Hudson, Union moved their girls to the Bergen County Juvenile Detention Facility, paying Bergen County $246,375.
The partnership between Union and Essex counties is for five years, with an option to renew. The nationally-accredited Essex juvenile facility — which has an all-day school, recreation programs and a swimming pool — is less than six miles away from the current facility in Union.
The state’s largest juvenile correctional facility in Jamesburg — the New Jersey Training School for Boys — and the Juvenile Female Secure Care and Intake Facility (also known as Hayes) in Bordentown, are also being shuttered.
The two facilities will be replaced with two newly built smaller rehabilitation centers.
In 2012, Advocates of Children in New Jersey issued a report showing that the number of youth in detention centers across the state had decreased since 2004, saving the state $16 million.
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