Since its beginning in 1967, the Randall County Juvenile Probation Department has continued to grow and expand, experiencing growth in the areas of facilities, personnel, and services. The earliest form of juvenile probation in the county consisted of juveniles on probation reporting once each month to a Randall County deputy, Lynn Pounds. In January 1967, the Randall County Commissioners’ Court began to discuss the need for a part-time county juvenile probation officer. Their search for the county’s first juvenile probation officer led them to Woody Pond, a Miami, Texas rancher, who assumed his new duties in March of that year.
It was soon discovered that trying to provide juvenile probation services was more than a one-man job, and Mr. Pond was given the choice of hiring a secretary or another “hand.” On November 29, 1969, Amarillo police officer, Harold Mann, was hired as his assistant. The following year Mr. Pond was elected Randall County Judge, and Harold Mann was promoted to Chief Juvenile Probation Officer.
During his tenure, Harold Mann utilized the secretarial services of part-time work-study students from the local college. In October 1976, the department employed Evelyn Glover as their first full-time secretary. In March of the following year, Harold Mann was appointed Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Potter County. With the Randall County position vacated, the department functioned without a designated chief officer until August 1, 1978. On that date, Jane Anderson King was appointed Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Randall County.
In 1992, construction began on a site at 9300 South Georgia Street, just south of the Amarillo city limits. The construction of this new facility was under the direction of Randall County Judge C.W. “Mac” McMenamy and Randall County Commissioners John Currie, Jr., John Dodson, George “Skip” Husky, and William Thomas. This impressive new structure was officially designated Youth Center of the High Plains, a regional juvenile detention center, which originally housed up to sixty juveniles.
Chief King’s vision for the new facility was to offer children a therapeutic rehabilitative experience within a secure setting. She championed the core roots upon which the programs of the YCHP are currently grounded upon respect for personhood; individual responsibility; safety; rational thinking; accountability; empathy; and ultimately the chance to make new, healthy, positive choices. The Juvenile Probation Department moved into the new facility the first week of January 1993. Two weeks after the opening of the Center, the Potter County Detention Center closed its doors, and all juveniles in custody were transported to the Youth Center of the High Plains. Neil Eddins is the detention superintendent—a position he has held since 1995.
In 2013, a significant expansion was completed to the facility to meet the increased need for secure services to juveniles. Additionally, the probation department experienced growth, as the continued focus on community-based interventions to children and families catalyzed the need for additional officers and support staff.
In September of 2015 Chief King retired and Dr. Joe Barton was appointed as the new Chief Juvenile Probation Officer by the Randall County Juvenile Board, chaired by the Honorable Judge James Anderson. Chief Barton continues to build upon the core foundational roots originally planted by his friend and predecessor, Jane King. The Youth Center of the High Plains continues to be an innovative, rehabilitative facility that focuses on the intrinsic value of each child we serve; recognizing that all people have the potential for positive and healthy change. Accountability, safety, rehabilitation, professionalism, and integrity are the roots of which we remain grounded.
The Randall County Juvenile Board is the governing body of the Randall County Juvenile Probation Department and the Youth Center of the High Plains. The Honorable James W. Anderson, Judge of the Randall County Court at Law #1 is the Chairman of the Juvenile Board. The other members are:
• The Honorable Dan Schaap, Judge of the 47th District Court
• The Honorable John Board, Judge of the 181st District Court
• The Honorable Ana Estevez, Judge of the 351st District Court
• The Honorable Ronnie Walker, Judge of the County Court at Law #2
• The Honorable Ernie Houdashell, Randall County Judge
Currently, the Youth Center of the High Plains features a 48-bed secure detention facility and 38 secure post-adjudication residential beds. The residential programs include the Constructive Living Unit (CLU), which includes two specialized tracks—one focused on juveniles with adjudicated sexual-based offenses, while the other focuses on juveniles with substance-related issues—and the Progressive Intervention Unit (PIU), which is a 90-day secure behavioral modification program. In-house and contracted mental health professionals provide an array of therapeutic services to the children in our care, including individual therapy, music therapy, crisis intervention, and experiential (i.e., “Ropes”) groups.
Additionally, numerous programs and positive changes have been added to the community probation department over the years. The probation department currently includes intensive supervision, progressive sanctions, individual counseling, Family Intervention Program, community service restitution, youth, and family diversion, community outreach, PRIDE (Potter Randall Intensive Drug Education), Ropes course, among others.
The probation department, secure facility, and PRIDE program employ dozens of professionals with various backgrounds, skills, and expertise; all of whom have added their unique contributions to the department’s good work record and subsequent positive reputation. We continue to be grateful for the contributions of so many to make us who we are today.