HOUSTON – Aldermen want kids who commit crimes in Houston to be locked up in juvenile detention and then given ankle bracelets – and they are willing to pay to see it done.
The Houston Board of Mayor and Alderman met with Chickasaw County Youth Court Judge Richard Bennett Tuesday night and told the judge to get tough on kids who break the law in Houston. They also urged Bennett to get tough on parents who don’t take responsibility for their child.
“If a kid gets picked up for a crime in Houston, we want extreme measures taken to let them know this kind of behavior will not be tolerated in this town,” said Houston Mayor Stacey Parker. “If that means sending them to detention or putting an ankle bracelet on them, that’s fine with us. We are willing to bear the cost.”
Sending youth to detention in Tupelo cost roughly $100 a day. Putting a person in an electronic ankle bracelet monitor costs $10 a day
Houston law enforcement, Youth Court attorney’s, aldermen and victims of youth crime have repeatedly been frustrated by the local County Youth Court giving teenagers a slap on the wrist and turning them loose.
But Bennett said the law will not allow him to put juveniles in detention unless they have threatened to hurt or kill somebody, threatened to hurt or kill themselves, are a target for murder or violence or do not have family they can be released to.
“Yes, I see kids two or three times and I want to lock them up, but the law won’t allow it,” said Bennett. “They have to commit at least three misdemeanors or be back in front of me for a second felony before I can send them to training school. The most they can spend down there is six weeks.”
Alderman-At-Large Barry Springer said parents need to be held responsible for the actions of their children and bear the cost of a fine and the cost of an electronic ankle bracelet.
Bennett said parents on disability, fixed income or welfare get roughly $450 a month and a $10-a-day ankle bracelet quickly eats into the money for food and rent. Bennett said Tuesday night there are currently no juveniles in ankle bracelets.
“I am sure that if that parent is faced with spending a night in jail they will find the money,” said Springer. “Most places will also put someone in jail and let them stay there until they work off their fine.”
Bennett said you can’t put someone in jail for owing a fine.
Chickasaw County Justice Court Judges issued 100 warrants last week for the arrest of individuals with unpaid fines. Those bench warrants, issued by a judge, charge constables with finding and arresting those who have been convicted of a crime and putting them in jail until their debt to the county and state have been satisfied.
“I bet they have cell phones and other things they would do without,” said Parker. “We’ve got to get a hold of this situation in Houston or we are going to lose another generation.”
Parker pointed out the juvenile needed to be from Houston or arrested for a crime in Houston for the city to pay for detention or an ankle bracelet. Parker said juveniles arrested in Okolona, Houlka, Woodland or in the county should be paid for by those entities.
Ward 1 Alderman Tony Uhiren said the city needed a monthly report listing the number of ankle bracelets placed on juveniles, the number of juveniles sent to detention and the number of cases going to youth court.
“This board has talked about this problem long enough and we want to see things change around here,” said Parker. “This is a cost the city is willing to accept today because the future cost – we’re talking about kids who will grow up to be adults around here – is too high. If we don’t try to change it, it won’t change.”