Youth offenders 'increasingly more disturbed'

MARSHALL CO. — Marshall County council members heard a request for funds from the probation department during their regular meeting Monday. Representatives from the department Mary Jane Walsworth and James Pheibush said that so far this year, they have used twice the bed days for detaining juveniles as the entire year last year.
“We have no explanation for why (this number) was so low last year and so high this year,” said Walsworth.
Pheibush said that he would like the council to approve at least $60,000 extra to pay for bed days for the rest of the year. Juveniles in Marshall County are detained at a facility in Muncie for $89 per day. This fee includes psychological evaluation, which Pheibush said is very helpful in determining the state of offenders.
“Kids commit all the same crimes as adults,” said Pheibush. “The difference I’ve seen over the years is that our system is getting increasingly more disturbed children that, in my opinion, our department is not equipped to handle.”
He added that he has seen a trend of violent children with no respect for authority or other people’s property. He mentioned that his department has seen three arsons and a major battery this year alone from juvenile offenders. He’s also had two offenders this year caught with meth labs in their rooms and one who broke into a residence while the homeowners were inside.
“Based on my 12 plus years in Marshall County, the number of repeat offenders is going up,” said Pheibush. “They are on their third or fourth offense.”
He said that juveniles can only be detained if certain federal requirements are made. Those requirements are: the offender must pose a threat to themselves or the community, they must have an A or B felony, or they must be deemed unlikely to appear in court. The length of time juveniles stay in detention is up to the judge. As of Monday morning, reported Walsworth, there are seven juvenile offenders being detained from the county.
“Part of our problem, and I’m sure you see it,” said Pheibush, “is that parents are terribly irresponsible, some of them.”
He also added, “I don’t know what society is going to do with these kids, and unfortunately this is the future of Marshall County and America.”
Council members informed Pheibush and Walsworth that they needed to fill out an additional appropriation request for the $60,000 and bring the issue before the council again in the July meeting.
“We will work with you,” said council president Matt Hassel.
In other business:
• County surveyor Larry Fisher also requested additional funds for some drainage projects being planned. He noted that these are storm sewer-type projects that are more costly than agricultural drains.