JCAPS employees upset with remarks, accusations made by county attorney’s office, head of Adolescent Support Services
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Remarks by local judicial officials at a work session hosted by the Seward County Commission June 24 regarding the potential relocation of the 26th Judicial District’s Juvenile Correction and Prevention Services office has employees of the agency somewhat upset.
The comments made talked about some of the criticisms of programs in the office, including their ineffectiveness. Two of the agency’s employees, administrative assistant Teresa Hoover and program coordinator Tish Duncan, spoke to the county commission at its regular Tuesday meeting about the statements.
Hoover said she was deeply hurt and personally offended by what she felt were untrue statements about JCAPS and its employees.
“I’m sadly disappointed that people who have never stepped one foot inside our office and have never spoken face-to-face with me or my co-workers about what we do can make some very serious accusations and insinuations that are either completely untrue or are twisted half truths,” she said. “Just because the person making a statement is in a powerful position does not make the statement true.”
Hoover said she felt personally attacked, along with her fellow employees who, she said, were being accused by certain people of not doing their jobs and helping the kids under their supervision.
“I am a good and dependable employee, and I do my job every single day,” she said. “I work hard at it, and I’m always one of the first people to step up and help others. I resent the fact that my good name and reputation and work ethic that I have worked so hard to build for almost 30 years have been slammed and dragged through the mud, and I do take it personally.”
Consensus at the county’s work session seemed to find that a new director was needed for JCAPS before it could be relocated. Hoover said the current director, Mike Howell, who is also the director of Cimarron Basin Community Corrections, is the man for the job.
“It really is going to be a devastating blow to our agency and the kids that we are helping every day if you take Mike Howell away from us as our director,” she said. “You have no idea what we really have been through and how much better things have been since Mike stepped in.”
Hoover said Howell, who was brought in March after former JCAPS director Gena Burnett was terminated, has many ideas, programs and plans to put into action to make services even better than they are now. This is in contradiction to a statement made by attorney Russell Hasenbank, who said kids are not getting anything meaningful out of the agency.
“There have been numerous changes already taking place just in the four short months he has been with us,” Hoover said of Howell. “Mike is so well liked and respected by all of us. Mike is the man for the job. He has been making progress.”
Hoover said making improvements takes time.
“You have to give him a chance to really make a difference,” she said. “Mike obviously wants to be the best director he can be with JCAPS and community corrections, but the only way he feels he can do that is for us to be over in the courthouse all under the same roof.”
Hoover said there are four empty offices in the courthouse which could be utilized by four of seven of JCAPS’ employees.
“Then he wanted to utilize another area across the hall to put juvenile officers on one side of the hall and adult officers on the other side of the hall with separate waiting rooms,” she said.
At the June 24 work session, Ivanhoe Love Jr. of Adolescent Support Services said having adult offenders in the same area as juveniles is a danger. Tuesday, Hoover said the youth in JCAPS are supervised entirely from the second they come to the program until the leave.
“Mike never intended for them at any moment to be rubbing elbows with or talking with adult offenders,” she said. “He even had an idea to have all the juveniles enter the building on one side and all the adult offenders enter only through the other side of the building. He also talked about putting up a wall separating the two areas so that the juveniles and adults never even see each other.”
Hoover said the county currently has plans to install a secure door at the south end of the building in the hall area which no juvenile or adult offender would be allowed through to be able to have access to the rest of the courthouse or offices.
“Therefore, there would be no loitering or wondering around the courthouse as some of you have been led to believe,” she said.
Hoover said most in Liberal and surrounding communities agree with her about Howell having the right qualifications for the job.
“He is the one who started both of these programs from scratch so many years ago,” she said. “This is his baby, so to speak. He wants JCAPS not only to be a success and to help these kids, but to do it in the most effective, cost-efficient and positive way possible. Four months part time is not enough time to fix everything that is wrong or to fix all the kids we’re trying to help. These are kids by the way, not spark plugs.”
That comment was made in regards to an analogy made by county attorney Don Scott June 24, in which he compared JCAPS’ problems with one of its programs to getting spark plugs for a car.
Hoover said Howell handles most of the duties of Cimarron Basin, which include financial, reception and clerical.
“He has no receptionist, no administrative assistant and no finance person to perform these duties,” she said.
These positions, Hoover said, are already in the JCAPS office, and if the agency is moved to the courthouse, this would take a huge weight off Howell.
“If you would just keep Mike on as director and allow JCAPS staff to move into the area he is already utilizing at the courthouse, we could stay on track with his ideas and plans,” she said. “I believe under Mike’s direction that we can be a huge success and provide even more help to these troubled kids.”
Hoover said JCAPS is not asking for a handout, but a chance for Howell to keep his job and make the agency the best possible to help kids succeed.
At the work session, Hasenbank said the kids in JCAPS are not receiving help, but Hoover said Tuesday, the agency has helped many kids throughout the years.
“We have made a difference in many kids’ lives and their families’ lives as well,” she said. “We still have former juveniles and family members of juveniles who stay in touch with our employees over the years, and they give JCAPS staff much of the credit for their success.”
JCAPS employees praise interim director Howell
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
At Tuesday’s Seward County Commission meeting, following the comments of administrative assistant Teresa Hoover, JCAPS Program Coordinator Tish Duncan made remarks about statements made by judicial authorities at a work session hosted recently by the commission.
The work session took place June 24 to discuss the possible relocation of JCAPS to the courthouse. Some at that meeting believed the best direction for the agency to go was to first find a new director.
Duncan said Mike Howell became interim director in March, and during his short time with JCAPS has made changes for the better, including allowing the agency to have access to programs with Cimarron Basin Community Correction, which Howell also heads.
Duncan said Howell has likewise enhanced efficiencies and held case managers accountable for their case loads.
“He has opened a line of communication that creates an atmosphere of professionalism and competence – the type of office that I would appreciate working in,” she said. “The loss of Mike would adversely affect not only the JCAPS office, but the offices of the county attorney, court, law enforcement and not to mention the effect it would have on our kids.”
Duncan said hiring a new director at this time could set back JCAPS, a time at which she said progress has been made since Howell stepped in.
At the work session, county attorney Don Scott said the intention of JCAPS is to fix kids, not lock them up. Duncan said Tuesday JCAPS does not want kids to be locked up or even removed from their parents’ homes.
“JCAPS does not have the authority to put kids in detention for long periods of time,” she said. “That is decided by the court.”
Duncan said her office does have the capability to issue an arrest and detain a kid when necessary.
“But we have to have a detention hearing within 48 hours to determine where the juvenile is to be placed,” she said. “JCAPS’ goal is to keep the kids in the home, in the community and have them receive the treatment that is needed for them to be successful.”
Duncan said JCAPS offers programs such as drug and alcohol treatment. The agency can also utilize CBCC’s resources, which she said will allow JCAPS to provide more programs to youth.
“I do agree that Seward County is limited on their resources, but I also believe the court, law enforcement, schools and the community need to be more involved,” she said. “Parents need to be held accountable. JCAPS cannot supervise these kids 24/7.”
Duncan later referred to a statement made by attorney Russell Hasenbank, who said young people are staying in the juvenile system and not getting the help they need.
“I work with these kids, and my heart is in it to make sure they are successful, not sitting in our detention system and not wallowing around in the system with kids that aren’t getting anything,” she said.
Duncan said the 26th Judicial District is a leader in the state when it comes to certifying juveniles as adults and placing kids in detention centers.
“These decisions are not made from the JCAPS office, but rather the office of the county attorney,” she said.
Duncan also referred to a statement made by Ivanhoe Love Jr. saying placing JCAPS in the courthouse with CBCC would be a mistake due to the mixing of adult and juvenile offenders.
“There have been several times when an adult and a juvenile are in the same court room,” she said. “This has happened in the past. It is currently happening, and it will continue to happen as long as there is only one courthouse in Seward County.”
Those at the work session said Howell has been spread entirely too thin to effectively get JCAPS running as it should be. Duncan said Tuesday this concern would be eliminate if Howell were able to direct both that agency and CBCC within the same building.
“The quality of management Mike provides to both agencies part time is so much greater than when JCAPS had a full-time director,” she said.
Duncan said she hoped everyone would understand how passionate she is about her job.
“There is no greater satisfaction watching a juvenile sentenced to JCAPS and in my supervision accept responsibility for their actions, mature and be successfully discharged,” she said.
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