Fewer Juveniles in Yakima's Juvenile Detention Center

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Fewer kids are ending up in Yakima County's Juvenile Detention Center. It's not that kids are staying out of trouble. Juvenile authorities think it's because they're able to intervene with methods that don't involving locking them up. Action News learned how this change in philosophy might putting more kids on the right path.

"Kids basically are our future so you really want to persuade them in any way possible whatever program you have to offer kids whatever it might be to improve their life and make them go down a better path," said ex-con Joshua Romero.

Joshua Romero says he's glad to hear the number of kids in juvenile detention is down because he used to be one of them. The numbers are falling across the state, but the decline is much more prominent in Yakima. Authorities credit something called evidence based programming for the change for each kid in the system.

"Basically, we address the risk of the child the needs of the child and find an intervention that can address those basic risks instead of a one-size fits all kid of modality," said Lisa Wallace, Washington State

Romero says he wished that was available when he was in detention.

"[Someone] like myself had more than enough chances to change my ways and I never, so that's why I landed where I was. That's the reason I got sent to adult penitentiary," said Romero.

He says he's glad it's working for other kids.

"If you could just reach one kid out of the program I think it's worth it," he said.

That's why the counselors like Cynthia Cruzen believe in the program.

"When they can start to believe in themselves because somebody else has stepped up and said I believe in you too. We can do this and I'll be there behind you. Come on lets go," said Yakima Juvenile Detention Probation Counselor Cynthia Cruzen.

Romero says it's crucial programs like this continue to get support, "If they should, they don't care why does a kid think he cares about his own life. A kids to me wants reassurance that's he's worth something.

Washington's goal is to minimize recidivism for juvenile criminals. The state's aggression replacement training already reduced re-offense rates by 24 percent.