History of the Pima County Juvenile Court Center
In 1907, the Arizona Territorial Legislature established Juvenile Court. Henry Meyer was appointed its first Probation Officer. In 1913, Pima County was required to establish a Detention facility specifically for youth. Prior to this, children were housed with the probation officers or in the Pima County Jail. The first Detention facility was operated by Patrick and Clara Higgins from 1920 through 1932. After Mr. Higgins passed, Mrs. Higgins continued to operate the facility, known as Mother Higgins, until 1947 when the entire Juvenile Court was moved to the County Court House downtown.
A new Juvenile facility, called Mother Higgins, was inaugurated in September, 1956 at 332 S. Freeway in the brick house that is now the county's Theresa Lee Health Clinic. In 1963, Mother Higgins officially became the Pima County Juvenile Court Building, but to Pima County citizens, it remained Mother Higgins. The facility housed 26 boys and 12 girls, a courtroom and probation department.
Due to Pima County's growth, the Pima County Juvenile Court Center was opened in December, 1967 on East Ajo Way, adjacent to the current building. The facility housed 30 boys and 30 girls with 24 secure locked rooms and 36 bunk beds in a dormitory style living area. The next expansion occurred in 1986 when 12 more beds were added to Detention and additional courtrooms were added. In 1990, the number of beds was increased to 86.
The peak of juvenile crime occurred in the early 1990s. The population of detainees rose to record levels. In 1997, due the tremendous overcrowding, the gymnasium was converted into a sleeping area. Mattresses on the floor, a portable table with chairs and a chalkboard became home to 25 boys.
In May 1997, the Pima County Board of Supervisors held a countywide bond election. The Pima County Juvenile Court was the top item on the ballot. A $42 million expansion project was approved by the voters by the widest margin in the election.
Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in June, 1998 with 60 new Detention beds. In July, 1999, the 60 new beds, adjacent to the old Detention facility to the East, were occupied. Construction continued and culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in February, 2000 with over 500 people in attendance. Juvenile Court staff moved into the new building that same month and remodeling of the old Detention area commenced. The entire project was completed in late 2000. None of this could have been accomplished without the support of the community. In the Court's main lobby, the plaque denotes the dedication of this building to you, its citizens