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Number of youths in DYS custody reaching pre-pandemic level

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

After decreasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of children and teens in the custody of the Alabama Department of Youth Services is rising.

There were almost 275 youths in the department’s custody in July 2018 and July 2019, but it dropped to 205 in July of 2020 and was 224 in July of 2021.

“We are continuing to see more youth come into DYS custody this year and it looks like we could resume 2018 and 2019 numbers,” Shannon Weston, public information officer for DYS, said recently.

The decrease in 2020 was at least in part because juvenile courts, like others, had to slow operations because of the pandemic.

“We’re seeing more kids come through the system again,” Weston said.

During the pandemic, some of the providers DYS contracts with to house youths closed.

It’s gone from 288 contracted beds to 166, including 16 under a new $2.2 million contract at a facility in Dothan.

The department also has 270 beds across three state-owned facilities. But the number of youth at those facilities depends on staffing and staffing capacity, not physical capacity, Weston said.

The department provides programs for the prevention of juvenile delinquency and rehabilitation. Programs include evaluation, detention, rehabilitation and education.

The department’s Mt. Meigs campus earlier this month was given a national award for its recent changes to make improvements in the lives of those it serves.


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