Legislative Committee Reviews Adobe Mountain School, Arizona's Last Juvenile Prison

Published: Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 5:40pm
Updated: Friday, October 13, 2017 - 8:57am

A joint legislative committee is reviewing Arizona’s last remaining juvenile prison.

The Adobe Mountain School houses youth offenders ages 14-18. The facility was built in the 1970s and is operated by the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections (ADJC). Aboout $20 million of ADJC’s roughly $38 million annual budget goes to running Adobe Mountain.

Located on state land in Phoenix, the prison can hold 430 youths, but currently only 172 are housed there.

A committee made up of state senators and representatives as well as leaders in the field of criminal justice and members of the community have been charged to review the continued use of the prison.

Jeff Hood, ADJC's interim director, told the committee this week that despite an increase in committals last year, he expects the youth inmate population to decline, following a national trend.

"Arrests are down, referrals to court are down — all of those numbers are down," Hood said. "And certainly secure care environments are down as well.”

Hood said many other jurisdictions are moving to smaller secure care facilities to hold youths closer to their homes.

Part of the Adobe Mountain School property is currently being used as a re-entry center for adult offenders.

Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan told the committee the state needs more space for similar programs.

"We need additional capacity," Ryan said. "Particularly here in Maricopa County, because we're trying to focus our efforts on those people who are considered high to moderate risk to recidivate."

Ryan said the advantage of re-entry centers is "we can redirect you and try and get you back on the straight and narrow. Otherwise you go back to prison and it becomes a revolving door."

Hood told the committee the best information they have on youths in Arizona prisons shows that about 37 percent of them recidivate within three years.

The committee will look at other options for the youths currently held at the facility as well as what to do with the land.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the location of Adobe Mountain School.

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