The Indiana Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch in Clay County has made some progress on its journey to being able to help hundreds or thousands of kids a year.
But, there is still a long way to go.
The 62-acre property a few miles south of Brazil on State Road 59 was able to hold a few “COVID camps” last summer for limited groups of middle schoolers recommended by sheriffs throughout the state.
Now that the COVID restrictions are loosening a little bit, the ranch is making a full-steam ahead drive toward radically upgrading its facilities with hopes of being fully operational next year.
The ranch’s goal is to serve at-risk youth who are not in trouble but might be “growing up on wrong side of the tracks,” future law enforcement officers, victims of crime and witnesses of crimes in a safe environment often vastly different from their normal surroundings.
“The victims and witnesses of crimes are sometimes forgotten about after a while by the criminal justice system,” said Scott Minier, executive director of the ranch. “There is nothing really special for them to try to recover from what they’ve seen or been through. We hope to create a peaceful setting here for them to be able to have a retreat and work with some social work students.”
The ranch depends on the generosity of several different donors, both individuals and large corporations, as well as grants.
“We have developed a good reputation from grant providers,” Minier said. “AT&T is an example of a corporation that will be a great sponsor for us. They might be the sponsor of a program for kids from Vigo County, since we are partnering with Indiana State University, for kids on free and reduced lunch programs.
“We want to close the digital divide and the graduation gap for those students,” he said. “Students from all 92 counties will be eligible to come to the ranch, with students from Clay County being mixed in with those from Vigo County or maybe Putnam since their travel distance is less than most counties.”
Students will also be able to go on short day trips to ISU to visit its criminology offerings, including the simulated crime lab. Law enforcement and security students from ISU will be serving as counselors.
“We think it’s a perfect marriage,” Minier said.
The ranch is located on a site which included a former veterinary clinic and five-bedroom house besides several outer buildings.