Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff detention centers to close

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Six juvenile facilities in Missouri are set to close come January 1, including two in the Heartland. Those are the centers in Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau.

The other four include Bolivar, Sedalia, Union, and Warrensburg. Sixty-four employees in all could be out of work.

"It's budget driven," said Judge William Syler who serves on the budget committee.

Syler says the committee toured the facilities and made decision on which to close based on age, capacity, usage, and proximity to other facilities.

Meanwhile, housing and treatment of juvenile offenders is a subject close to the heart of Tracy McClard. Her son, Jonathan took his life before beginning a 30 year sentence in an adult prison.

"My vision for all kids in Missouri is that no matter what crime they have committed, they remain in the juvenile system," said McClard.

She now fights for juvenile justice reform. She says above all she wants to know the state has a plan for kids like her son.

"Even if you are not directly affected, your tax payer dollars pay for this. If we get to them when they are children, it's much cheaper. They deserve a second chance," said McClard.

Judge Syler says he's not only concerned for the families of juvenile offenders and victims, but for workers involved.

"This is not a decision we take lightly. Many of these centers do good work," said Syler. "The money just isn't there."

"Our concern is the state does not appear to have a plan to take care of the void," said Cape County Commissioner, Jay Purcell.

Purcell says closing the Cape Center will put a strain on the county and tax payers. He'd like to see the process delayed.

"That probably won't happen," said Purcell. "But I am concerned about the burden this will put on police taking up the slack. This may save the state money, but the burden comes back on us," said Purcell.

The supreme court still has to sign off on the decision. Other facilities could also close. Stoddard County, and Mississippi County centers remain open for now.

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