It's with mixed emotions that we applaud completion of Stanislaus County's new juvenile commitment facility off Blue Gum Avenue in northwest Modesto.
Of course we wish that there was no or minimal need for detention facilities such as this, which will house teens 14 to 17 found guilty of assault, burglary, auto theft and other crimes serious enough to land them in detention for up to a year.
What's satisfying about the new center off Blue Gum Avenue is that it will allow juvenile offenders to remain in their home county and, hopefully, complete their high school education and get the further assistance to get on the right track as adults. Years ago, these were the type of offenders that would have been sent to the California Youth Authority, which no longer exists in its previous scope or form.
Although this is an attractive building from the outside, it is nonetheless an institution, as evidenced by the 16-foot fence topped by razor wire. There are a total of 60 beds mattress on built-in concrete bunks in three units. One of two smaller units will be for girls; the other 45 beds are for boys. The locks on each cell are controlled by the probation officer stationed at a computer inside the unit.
The promising elements of the center are the four classrooms, two program rooms and a full-service commercial kitchen, where juveniles will prepare meals for the center and learn skills that can lead to a job later. The Stanislaus County Office of Education will provide the teachers for the academic and vocational training programs.
Stanislaus County officials were aggressive in seeking state money to pay 75 percent of the cost of the $22 million facility. Like juvenile hall, this will be run by the Stanislaus County Probation Department. The 32 staff members are being trained in preparation for its full opening in June, according to Probation Chief Jill Silva.
Meanwhile, former Stanislaus County probation chief Jerry Powers continues to wrestle with the challenges of corruption and criminal activity in the Los Angeles Probation Department, which he now heads. According to the Los Angeles Times, a report released Wednesday says that in 2012, 64 employees were either arrested or questioned in crimes ranging from burglary to attempted murder. That's only a slight improvement from 2011, when 69 Los Angeles probation employees were arrested.
"Any kind of systemic change takes a while," Powers told the Times. He was pleased that only one probation employee has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence this year. "That's huge," Powers said.
Modesto, which once touted itself as on the way to everywhere, seems to be on the way to a lot of gaming options.
As we reported last month, Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne County is adding a 148-room hotel and conference center to its complex in Tuolumne City. The five-story structure is scheduled to open May 1. The casino resort has been a boon to the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians.
Meanwhile, the 700-member tribe of Wilton Rancheria Miwoks is looking at building a casino in Galt, at the south end of Sacramento County. One possible site is 160 acres of farmland just off Highway 99 and Arno Road.
And to the south of us, the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians is still battling to build a casino on 300 acres along 99 in Madera County.
Will the addition of casinos increase traffic on 99? We think that's a safe bet.
A federal bankruptcy judge cleared the way for Stockton to be firmly in bankruptcy, which provides some relief for the city but also has made it the brunt of more jokes. Jay Leno took a shot at our neighbor to the north on his Wednesday show, saying, "In fact, Stockton is so broke, getting hit by a North Korean missile would actually increase property value." And then another, "Stockton is so broke even Lindsay Lohan refuses to shoplift there."
Not all of the comments were fun and games, however.
Wrote Rick Moran on the "American Thinker" blog: "Bondholders and insurers in this, and other municipal bankruptcies to come, will almost certain have to endure a substantial haircut just as their sovereign debt holder counterparts in Europe. By the time this all shakes out, borrowing money will get a lot harder, and a lot more expensive for cities and states."