After years of planning and discussion, an expansion to the Grayson County Juvenile Detention Center is nearing completion.
“We’re dry,” said Director of Juvenile Services Bill Bristow. “The roof is up, and it looks good.”
The story of this expansion began in 2007, when the Texas Legislature started a major overhaul of the juvenile justice system. This led to an ongoing policy of shutting down large, state-run juvenile detention facilities in favor of smaller, local operations.
In 2012, the Grayson County Commissioner’s Court approved funding for an expansion of current juvenile facilities. Exact plans were finalized in 2013, and construction began on the facility at North Texas Regional Airport-Perrin Field on Nov. 4.
The new, $1.5 million facility will add 24 minimum-security beds for young offenders from all across the state, increasing current capacity by 50 percent. Bristow said he expects the expansion, in addition to providing a much-needed service, will be an economic boon for the community.
“The facility will be financially self-sustaining,” Bristow said. He expects to quickly repay the Commissioner’s Court’s loan of the construction money with income from housing youth from other counties. “We sell beds to whoever needs this type of program,” Bristow explained. Grayson County currently has contracts in place with 35 other Texas counties to lease detention space.
The addition will also create 20 new jobs, ranging from supervision officer to therapist. The Juvenile Services Department is already in the process of filling those positions, beginning by naming Susan Hricko deputy director in charge of the facility.
Bristow said the primary goal of the facility will be to help rehabilitate troubled youth and prepare them for a successful future. Emphasis will be placed on both traditional education and “pre-vocational activities.” These activities serve as the groundwork for an apprenticeship, helping prepare children and teens for competitive careers.
“We want to make sure they are leaving here with a skill,” said Bristow.
Bristow also noted that the new expansion will be distinct from the Grayson County Boot Camp program. “A lot of people ask me if this is replacing boot camp,” he said, but the two facilities offer different programs and serve different populations.
Construction on the building is expected to finish July 28, and the facility, newly licensed and staffed, will open in mid-August.