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Gainesville to house relocated youth offenders
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Gainesville’s youth detention center will be accommodating more offenders, according to Thursday’s Department of Juvenile Justice announcement to close the Gwinnett Regional Youth Detention Center by June 2014.

Juvenile offenders from Hall County and the northern half of Gwinnett County will be assigned to the RYDC in Gainesville. 

Juvenile offenders from Rockdale County and the southern half of Gwinnett County will be assigned to the newly renovated Rockdale RYDC. 

“I can’t say they’ll be split up exactly, but that’s where we’re planning to move the group of youth,” DJJ Communications Director Jim Shuler said.

DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles made the announcement after notifying Gwinnett County law enforcement officials, legislators and members of the Gwinnett judiciary, a news release said.

Shuler said it was a matter of finding a place to relocate the youth before finalizing the move. The Gwinnett RYDC holds 49 young offenders, 38 males and 11 females.

“This has been in the planning for some years. The department started work on a contingency blueprint several years ago when funding was first obtained,” he said. “But before you can close a location, you have to know where you’re going to put the population.”

The department will help the staff as it faces relocation as well.

“We will be working with that staff to find employment at the closest facility to them,” Shuler said.

The Rockdale facility, previously an adult detention center, has been refurbished.

“All of the original docks were open-bay sleeping areas, which were converted into a 52-bed juvenile facility with individual cells, so it’s been retrofitted,” he said.

The completion of that project is “what’s really making all of this possible,” Shuler said.

“This is advanced planning,” he added

Shuler said the 30-year-old Gwinnett facility saw its share of activity.

“It’s not like a school building — you go in the morning, it runs in the day and closes at night. A juvenile facility is operating 24/7,” Shuler said. 

“The real world terms of wear and tear are like five years to one year — 30 years is (a) long time for a building like this that would be under constant use.”

The building finally hit the point where maintenance expenses were excessive, he said.

“We can foresee more infrastructure breakdowns in our future at the Gwinnett RYDC and it’s time for us to see our way ahead with contingency plans,” Niles said in the release.

Earlier this year, Niles had to activate special transport plans to move the entire youth population from the Gwinnett RYDC to other metro area detention centers after a major sewer line collapsed 6 feet beneath the concrete floor of the Gwinnett facility.

“When you take the long view, you don’t want to get involved in throwing money in a money pit, especially if you know the facility needs to be phased out,” Shuler said. 

“The move will be a savings to the state and to taxpayers, although exactly how much I don’t know.”

The DJJ will schedule monthly coordination meetings with Gwinnett County officials and local stakeholders beginning in January 2014 to plan for the relocation of youth.

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