When Cole County became a second-class county in 1973 it was mandatory to have a juvenile facility. The first facility at 408 Russell Street opened in 1978. It was named the Sam C. Blair Juvenile Attention Center after Judge Sam Blair, the first Juvenile Court Judge in Cole County.
On May 11, 1992, fire destroyed the Juvenile Center. In April of 1994, the Michael W. Prenger Family Center opened and was named after Michael W. Prenger, the Director of the Blair Center, who passed away unexpectedly just prior to the opening. The Center was dedicated on October 16, 1994.
The Prenger Family Center serves a variety of needs. It is a licensed residential care center and can provide the residential services for up to 8 females and 6 males. The residents of the emergency care shelter are from situations where there is physical injury, sexual abuse or emotional abuse inflicted on a child. In 2004, the Center served 385 youth in the residential shelter with an average stay of 5 days. The average daily population was 5 juveniles. 74% of the juveniles served were from Cole County and the remaining 26% were from other counties.
In addition the Center serves as the juvenile detention facility for Cole and surrounding counties. The juveniles served in the detention unit are primarily those juveniles that commit an act, which if committed by an adult would be a crime. Out of a total of 131 juveniles served, 118 or 90% were from Cole County. The average length of time in detention is 6.4 days and the average daily population is 4.
The Center also serves as the Juvenile Office for the 19th Circuit Court. The Court Services Division is staffed with a Chief Juvenile Officer, one full-time attorney and one part-time attorney and eight Deputy Juvenile Officers. During the year of 2004 the Juvenile Court Services Division received 1270 referrals from 17 sources. Among the referral sources are the Jefferson City Police Department, the Cole County Cole County Sheriff Department, Cole County Schools, parents and relatives. Abuse and neglect referrals totaled 340. There were 521 misdemeanor offenses referred with assault, peace disturbance and stealing being the major offenses. There were 148 felony offenses with assault, tampering and burglary the major offenses. The remaining referrals were status offenses, infractions and courtesy supervision for other jurisdictions.
The Center provides evaluation services through partner agencies and placement services in cooperation with the Children’s Division. Educational Services are provided in cooperation with the Jefferson City Public School District. The Center cooperates with the Jefferson City Public Schools and the YMCA to provide services to suspended students through the Knowles Suspended Student Classroom. Center Staff also conducts the Baby Think It Over Program, the Law Related Education that culminates with prison tours for juveniles, and the Youth Educational Shoplifting Program. Court Services staff also provides intensive supervision of juveniles, holds victim impact classes and supports the Juvenile Drug Court, which began in January 2000 and the Family Drug Court which began in 2004.
Staff for the Center is compromised of 21 full-time and 22 part-time employees that provide services 24 hours a day. The operational budget for 2006 is $1,464,701.00. The projected revenue for the year is $537,965.00.