Pulaski County To Implement New Juvenile Justice Reform Program

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - It's a case-by-case basis, but when a kid commits a crime they are handed some sort of punishment. Whether it be to appear in court or head to a detention center. 

Pulaski County now looking to change that with a brand new initiative. 

It's in the very early stages, but the county hopes this will allow different groups to team up together and provide options to kids other than lock-up. 

Lt. Theodore Haase with the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office says it's not uncommon to get called to a crime and the believed culprit is a kid. 

"We see everything from domestic violence, disorderly conduct, theft, shoplifting," Lt. Haase said. 

He says when young people enter the criminal system, it starts with that initial contact. 

"We typically call into our juvenile intake and they make the decision if they will be transported to the juvenile detention center or whether that person will be issued a court date on scene," Lt. Haase said.

From the crime to the courts, Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde aims at reforming the current juvenile justice system with a new program. 

"It keeps kids out of the system that don't belong in the system and it allows us to direct resources to kids that are in the system that need help," Judge Barry Hyde said. 

It's called Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative or JDAI.  

"It's a trickle down effect, start with the most major issue, detention, and then move along to alternatives to detention," chief deputy Pulaski County attorney Chastity Scifres said. 

They say it's a team effort, from law enforcement, to schools, community groups, and even those who sit on the bench. 

"We have three juvenile court judges who have all been willing participants and partners with this initiative," Scifres said. 

Lt. Haase hopes it helps keep kids from living a life of crime. 

"I've been in this profession for 16 years now and there's a lot of people I knew that were juvenile offenders and I have dealt with now as adult offenders," Lt. Hasse said. 

A third party has already done a juvenile justice system assessment at the Pulaski County center. The report suggested to stop using orange jumpsuits. Shortly after reviewing those recommendations, the facility now offers khaki pants and polo shirts as standard uniform. 

This program is already implemented in Benton and Washington counties. According to their data, the number of youth committed to state custody dropped by about 30-percent.

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