From left: Sen. Cale Case, Rep. Patrick Goggles and Rep. Jerry Paxton at yesterday’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations. Joshua Scheer photo.
(Fort Washakie, Wyo.) – The need for better coordination with various agencies, as well as a need for more help, were listed yesterday morning in a discussion on the state of juvenile justice on the Wind River Indian Reservation during the Wyoming Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations meeting held in Fort Washakie.
Department of Family Services Director Steve Corsi reported at the start of the discussion that statewide juvenile justice was “going well.”
However, representatives from the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Family Services departments brought up a number of issues that need to be addressed.
Eastern Shoshone Juvenile Services Director Clarence Thomas said a memorandum of understanding is now in place with Sweetwater County to house juveniles who are in absolute need of detention. Fremont County no longer has any juvenile detention services.
Locally with the push to not detain juveniles except for violent offenses, which Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, heralded as a positive, new challenges have arisen with finding places for juvenile offenders to get help.
Both Thomas and Northern Arapaho Family Services Director James Trosper said there is a need for more training on behalf of the staff at the Fremont County Group Homes. Too often, they said, the group homes turn away offenders for past behavioral issues and flight risks.
No one from the group homes were in attendance, despite having been invited.
Trosper also noted that occasionally arresting officers don’t properly fill out risk assessments for juveniles, citing one incident where an officer recommended an intoxicated teen to the group homes despite the juvenile having a history of pulling a gun on a case worker in the past.
There was also talk about jurisdiction issues regarding juvenile tribal members who live in Lander and Riverton and then flee to the reservation. Thomas said those issues are slowly being resolved, but more work needs to be done.
Corsi said that due to budget restraints, the contract with the Northern Arapaho Family Services may be reduced by 7 percent in the coming budget year.
Trosper noted that his office is already understaffed and that he is advocating for Corsi’s budget to be improved.
Trosper said in one recent month his office handled 150 juvenile cases with six caseworkers, and Laramie County had 167 cases with more than 20 caseworkers.
Case and fellow committee member Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R – Lander, are also working on a proposed bill that will limit to whom law enforcement might release juveniles and would include the courts in the decision process should a parent or guardian not be available or suitable for them be release to.