If you're unlucky enough to be one of the five juvenile inmates currently housed at the Ravalli County Youth Detention Facility, there's not a whole lot going on to fill your day.

Youth in the long-term facility typically go to court about once a week, get occasional no-contact visits from family and attorneys, and about once a week meet with a volunteer tutor or counselor. Do they get to go outside and see the sun?

"No," said Cal Robinson, the center's director. "They never go outside."

Like it has for the past month, when activity jumped, the facility now is holding five inmates - all boys and all between 13 and 17 years old; a sixth county inmate is being housed in Missoula due to security concerns. Many of them will stay in the facility at least until their trials this fall.

While the boys don't get to have much contact with the outside world, if they're on good behavior they do get to watch a bit of television in the evening and use the media room.

On Thursday, Robinson stood back against a wall and said, "As you can see, we do have some things in here for them."

Robinson was talking to county commissioners who spent an hour Thursday viewing the facility and talking to Robinson about ways to save money and provide service.

The media room has a blue bookcase with a few dozen approved books; inmates may check them out two at a time. Titles on hand included "Lincoln" by Gore Vidal, "Lake Wobegon Days" by Garrison Keillor, "Cracking the GED: 2010 Edition," and "Inferno" by Dante.

A black bookcase on an adjacent wall held the games selection - Monopoly, Clue, Sorry, Life, Scrabble and Yahtzee - plus the main attraction, a Nintendo Wii. Underneath are a few DVDs - "Spiderman 3," "Zathura" and "Marley & Me."

There's a computer on a metal desk inmates can use for school work but not for e-mail. Atop a desk is an essay written in pencil by an inmate. It says: "Siting in my cell looking there is nothing but white the floors are hard my bed is high all most to the sky I am always in blue. I ... stand around staring at the four walls that surround me hopeing they will soon collaps so I can leave this God foresaken place and run and be free once again [sic]."

Last year the facility housed 220 juveniles. Commissioners have discussed downgrading the facility from a long-term one - which is more expensive to run - to a short-term one, which would be cheaper to operate but require costly trips to long-term facilities in Missoula, Great Falls and Kalispell. The county currently pays $225 a night per youth for accommodations in Missoula.

Commissioners annually tour the facility as part of its certification process. They said they may approach judges to see if there are ways the two parties can work together to save money - as in increased use of teleconference hearings, which would save on costly transports, especially if the inmate is being housed out of town.

"That's something we could certainly ask and tell them it would save taxpayer money," said Commissioner Jim Rokosch.

Reach reporter Jeff Schmerker at 363-3300 or at jeff.schmerker@ravallirepublic.com.


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.