Update on Juvenile Detention Program for Unaccompanied Minors

Since 2008, Yolo County has contracted with the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to operate a juvenile detention program for unaccompanied minors. This program is limited to those youth deemed appropriate for secure settings based on their criminal history or behavioral needs. The Yolo County program provides space for up to 24 of these minors. I believe that the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility provides a valuable service for these youth.

On May 9th Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to continue the ORR juvenile detention program contract for 2017-18. The Board approved the ORR contract contingent upon additional review of due process standards and improved public transparency. I want to commend Yolo County staff for the hard work and integrity that they have exercised over these past few months. The amazing cooperative spirit found among our staff and community members in Yolo County continues to mobilize, shed light upon, and improve the services that we are able to provide to these youth in our care.

At the May 9th Board meeting, Victoria Blacksmith, Supervising Detention Officer and Brent Cardall, Chief Probation Officer, reported several actions already underway to improve coordination of the ORR program. Among the changes already underway are:

  • Develop a Policy and Procedure or Memorandum of Understanding outlining the release/transfer of custody for youth whom are granted asylum. Chief Cardall and his staff completed this goal on April 11th.

  • Identify those youth currently in the stages of asylum and proactively identify solutions if granted. ORR has agreed to design a training with the State, specifically the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors program, to streamline the transfer of care process. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) program released a national policy on May 8th to streamline a post legal status plan.

  • Improve communication of non-confidential information with the public. This is an ongoing effort. While Chief Cardall and Victoria Blacksmith focused on the need to improve their media outreach plan, the Board stressed that we need to continue to work together to increase the transparency of information about this program. Chief Cardall welcomed the opportunity to meet with anyone who has any questions regarding the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) program housed within the Yolo County Juvenile Justice System. This will be an area for continued monitoring.

In addition to the need for better communication to the public about the ORR program, concern was also raised on the level of due process these youth in our care receive under the ORR program. From the presentation by Ms. Blacksmith and Chief Cardall it was unclear as to whether the youth in our care could request for hearings, or challenge the claims made against them. The Board directed staff to work with community members.

I look forward to exploring the possibilities of how to increase the public transparency of this program and to examine the level of due process that these youth receive while they are in our care.

Stay tuned for more information on the progress of this program as the Board will receive another update about the 2016-17 ORR program this December.

As always, please email me at don.saylor@yolocounty.org to share your thoughts on this topic or any other matter.

In shared service,