For the first time in six years, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office will close the Juvenile Assessment Center.
Lt. John Mowell, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office said, "We obviously have to take care of our business. The juvenile assessment center is not a mandated responsibility of the sheriff's office. We're not statutorily required to do."
The assessment center is where officers from all over the parish bring juveniles when they get in trouble. The goal of the center is to act as a diversion program to keep kids out of the legal system.
This morning, Lafayette Consolidated Government received notice that the Sheriff's Office is suspending a portion of the services they provide because of a lack of funding.
In 2013, LCG and the Sheriff's Office signed a contract for the Juvenile Assessment Center. The Sheriff's Office says LCG has not paid up in the last two years.
According to a letter obtained by KATC, LCG owes more than $530,000.
"We agreed to run the program, the center and all of the programs that go along with it... trying to find good, quality diversionary programs to keep them out of trouble and from going into the criminal justice system," Mowell said.
The Sheriff's Office said this year alone, more than 760 juveniles were processed through the assessment center.
Sometimes juveniles are taken to the detention center, but other times, law enforcement can find other ways to deal with the teens...like intervention programs or classes.
"We entered into the agreement in good faith to do this because it's good for the community," Mowell said. "We expect all of the other stake holders and shareholders to actively participate and engage so we can keep a positive program like this in operation."
Case workers will continue to work with the kids already involved in the center.
No new kids though will be admitted, including those that were coming from other cities in Lafayette Parish.
"The Sheriff's Office uses about 13% of the services from there," Mowell said. "However, for the past two years, we've been providing 100% of the funding even though we have an agreement with LCG saying that they'll pay $267,000 per year towards this funding."
A spokesperson with LCG said they're working to find a resolution.
KATC asked why LCG has not paid in two years and we were told a press release would be sent out.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the eight deputies who work at the center will be reassigned.
We're also told the announcement of the center closing is not related to a lawsuit filed by Sheriff Mark Garber against Lafayette Parish and LCG. That suit accuses LCG of not paying its share for maitenance of the jail as required by law.