NYT to Jindal: Go Missouri!

From the New York Times editorial page:

Two years have passed since the federal courts relinquished control of Louisiana’s notoriously troubled juvenile justice system. The state regained its autonomy by reducing the number of children held in detention and by promising to embrace reforms based on Missouri’s system, which long ago abandoned sprawling, prison-style facilities in favor of small, regional facilities that focus on rehabilitation.

Despite those promises, Louisiana’s system was never fully reorganized and the regional facilities never got built. Embarrassed by fresh charges of violence and brutality at the infamous Jetson Center for Youth near Baton Rouge, the state has now promised to close the troubled facility and proceed with genuine reform.

Gov. Bobby Jindal needs to make sure that the state’s new plan truly follows the Missouri model and that Louisiana’s juvenile justice officials implement it this time.

The community-based centers in Missouri are considered a national model that stresses therapy, not punishment, and often includes parents as well as the children. Instead of housing minor offenders and more serious offenders in the same place, as too often happens, Missouri sorts detainees by the seriousness of their crimes.

The oversight continues even after the young persons’ release, through case managers who help former inmates with job placement, school issues and drug or alcohol treatment. Missouri’s system more than pays for itself by keeping recidivism rates low. After completing the program, officials say, less than 10 percent of detainees go back to prison through the juvenile courts.

 

A team of consultants led by Mark Steward, an expert on the Missouri juvenile justice system, is advising Louisiana on how to proceed. For the sake of some of the state’s most vulnerable children, the Jindal administration should embrace the advice and follow it.

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