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Youth detention center’s services to remain intact

Martin Hall, counties agree on new plan

A new financial arrangement with the private operator of Martin Hall Juvenile Detention Facility in Medical Lake is keeping the lockup open for the counties and Inland Northwest tribes that it serves.

The move comes after Spokane County commissioners voted to withdraw their $319,000 annual funding commitment to the juvenile detention center.

The resulting threat of closure left small counties and tribes potentially without a place to send juveniles who committed serious crimes.

Under the new plan, the facility will charge counties and tribes $155 a day for each juvenile that it holds. That amount includes transportation to and from the counties and tribes, including court appearances, said Robert Palmquist, administrator at Martin Hall.

Community, Counseling and Correctional Services Inc., a nonprofit based in Butte, operates Martin Hall and other facilities across Montana and North Dakota. It took over the contract in 1999 from a for-profit company.

“We want to try and make this model work for them,” Palmquist said, describing the agreement as “advantageous for the counties.”

Scott Hutsell, a Lincoln County commissioner and chairman of the Martin Hall Consortium Board, said Martin Hall “is alive and well and continues to deliver services to the member counties and other users.”

In 2012, an average of 18 juveniles a day were incarcerated at Martin Hall. So far this year, the average is up to 25 a day. Capacity of the facility is 63 beds.

With swings in the number of juveniles in residence, the company that runs Martin Hall has a staff of 22 full-time and 10 on-call employees.

Along with Spokane County, the consortium is made up of Adams, Asotin, Douglas, Ferry, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens and Whitman counties.

Also using the facility are the Spokane, Yakima and Coeur d’Alene tribes.

Palmquist said alternative facilities in Okanogan, Chelan, Walla Walla, Benton and Spokane counties would have cost the small counties and tribes more money, especially factoring in the cost of transportation.

Martin Hall is a converted residential building on the campus of Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake. Four years of payments remain on the debt for the mid-1990s conversion.

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