Thurston County's law and justice agencies face a critical question: how to keep the public safe but still find a way in the next three weeks to make sharp cuts in their 2009 spending plans.
Leaders of the law and justice department, which makes up almost 75 percent of the county's $79.4 million 2008 general fund budget, have, like other county agencies, a Sept. 8 deadline to hand in preliminary 2009 budgets showing a 5 percent reduction from their 2008 budgets.
"It's going to be an incredible hardship for detention," said Mark Tips, manager of the county detention center. Any staff or program cut means that the center, which has an 80-bed capacity, will have to house fewer juveniles. With more offenders not in detention but instead out in the community, probation service levels increase, he added.
"It's a balancing act," Tips said. "If there's an increase in probation caseloads, then our ability to monitor and counsel juveniles goes down — and, over the long-term, detention increases."
Although the first priority is community safety — meaning keeping juvenile offenders in custody — Tips said the loss of programs means "there will be more lock-up and less teaching."
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