(SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan.)—Sedgwick County Commissioners could close the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch to save money. If that happens, some of the boys may have an alternative program to turn to.
Tuesday morning, commissioners got details about starting a youth reporting program. Supporters say it could help boys who are less at risk of offending again stay out of trouble. But not everyone agrees
"That's what the public needs to understand, just because we think we are going to save money on the J.R.B.R. side, we are going to spend some money somewhere else trying to solve the problem," said Commission Chairman Tim Norton.
The proposed youth reporting program could help, and would be similar to that used by adult inmates.
"Anything we can do to intervene and prevent people from being in the system I think pays off in the long run," said County Manager Bill Buchanan.
Buchanan says the program would cost about half as much as running the boys ranch, but it would only help about 30 boys. Right now the boys ranch takes care of 40.
"The high risk still probably need to stay in residential unit someplace," Buchanan said.
"I don't know that I like the program, because it is so unproven," Norton said.
Norton knows another option may be to wait for state lawmakers. Some in Topeka they will work to get Sedgwick county more money to keep the ranch open.
"We're not even sure they are going to make it back into office," Norton said. "The election next week will tell us some of that information."
"We've been asking the state for six years, and they have done nothing," Buchanan added
The fate of the Judge Riddell Boys Ranch will be decided in about two weeks when commissioners vote on the budget August 15.
The public will have two chances to speak out on this issue before the budget vote. County commissioners have scheduled public hearings on August 9 and August 14.