Budget cuts in Utah could mean closure of center that houses juvenile sex offenders

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A center known for housing and treating troubled youth in Salt Lake City for more than 50 years is in danger of shutting down due to state budget cuts.

The Wasatch Youth Center houses up to 46 juveniles, the majority of whom are sex offenders. There are three other facilities where the youth could be sent if the center shuts down, but officials with Juvenile Justice Services said that could lead to overcrowding and other problems.

Susan Burke, Director for Juvenile Justice Services, said shutting down the center and combining the populations could create challenges.

"Well, sex offending youth have very specific treatment needs that need to be addressed, and it's hard to do so when you're mixing them with a delinquent population who have other, different treatment needs,” she said. “So it's really important for us to create separation between sex offenders and non sex offenders, so we are not creating an environment where it's unsafe for either population and it's unsafe for staff.”

Officials also said a closure could mean a loss of jobs for some personnel, and they said moving the youth at the center would mean more travel and inconvenience for visiting family. The matter of funding will be addressed during the current legislative session.

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