The City of Pratt, according to Pratt County Sheriff Vernon Chinn, is arresting, or holding, 35-50 minors annually which are to be incarcerated. The Pratt Law Enforcement Center is the joint jail facility for both the city and county of Pratt. Since juveniles can not be housed with adult offenders they are being sent to the Bob Johnson juvenile holding facility, which has been set up by the Juvenile Justice Authority, to separately house juveniles for law enforcement in this area at a cost of $135 a day.
Many of these minors stay at the facility for several days during their incarceration, according to Chinn. Even though these juveniles are city arrests the costs of their incarceration is paid for out of the sheriff's budget, or county tax base, according to present policies and legislation.
Additionally, about five years ago the county approved charging the parents of these minors for the costs associated with their incarceration and Chinn recently discovered these billings were not being made. Somehow the process slipped through the cracks and parents have not been billed for several years, according to Chinn.
Chinn asked the county commissioners to consider turning over incarceration charges for juveniles to a collection agency if they go unpaid.
Pratt County Counselor Robert Schmisseur said before the county turns these charges over to a collection agency he would like to make sure it is authorized to do so under the law.
"If you want me to look at it to see if billing costs incurred is legal," said Schmisseur. "I would do that and try to have an opinion next week."
Chinn said he was sure there were other sheriffs in the state of Kansas currently billing these costs to the parents of the juveniles being incarcerated in their counties. Part of the problem, according to Chinn and Schmisseur is that they don't feel that it is necessary to house many of these juveniles outside the existing facilities in the county. Schmisseur said he felt if the 16-year-olds are tatted, on drugs and alcohol, and sexually active they should be able to be treated as adults.
Chinn said he hated to be told a juvenile had to be taken to the Bob Johnson facility. He gave an example of an out-of-state run-a-way juvenile whose out-of-state parents and local government officials refused to come to Kansas to take the minor back to their jurisdiction. The minor was going to have to be incarcerated at Bob Johnsons' facility for up to 30-35 days at $135 a day.
"Tell me to buy her a bus ticket… buy a plane ticket… let me drive her home." said Chinn. "There has to be a cheaper way."
Chinn explained he tries to avoid jailing minors knowing full well the cost of incarceration would be charged against his budget.