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Advocates speak up on juvenile justice center

Posted at 4:17 PM, Aug 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-21 17:17:31-04

While commissioners debate on the best path forward for a new juvenile justice center, Tuesday was a chance for them to hear from folks who are advocates for the children or work with them on a regular basis. 

Patrick McDermott served two decades as a judge in Schuyler and says in that span he's learned that kids that go into the system need comfort above all else. 

"If you walked into a modern grade school you'd see all the things they do to make it friendly and attractive to the kids, we need to absorb that into the juvenile justice system," says McDermott. 

The now retired judge says he is no fan of high rise buildings serving as a detention center and appeared to favor the $50 million proposal from commissioner Jim Cavanaugh that would renovate the Douglas County Youth Center in midtown instead of building a new one downtown. 

"Go walk around the Boys Town campus and you see what's it like to have green-space, it's calming for some of those kids, their mental health hospital, having all that green around them where they're taken out, given some alone time, time to be by themselves," says McDermott. 

One man, Ben Salazar, says the Latino community has not been properly brought in on the discussions for a new youth center. 

"First and foremost it's not about bricks and mortar, it's about human beings and this is a big segment of the Omaha population, it's about 13 percent and they need to have some voices," says Salazar.

Around a half dozen advocates spoke up at the meeting but nobody came forward that had previously been locked up in the juvenile justice center.

It appears the commissioners will soon be voting on the issue, as he tells us that the board will vote next Tuesday on whether to put his proposal on the ballot in 2018.