State must find way to serve youth

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ohio has finally acknowledged the many flaws with its juvenile detention system, but the real work will come from fixing these many problems that have made the system less than effective.

The state settled a four-year-old lawsuit last week that stemmed from allegations of excessive force. Couple that with a recent report that said the youth prisons were overcrowded, not properly staffed and not offering the needed educational opportunities and you have a big problem.

Anyone who thinks that this is a problem that doesn’t concern them is totally off base. Some of the problems were identified at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility.

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The settlement over the lawsuit, if approved by the judge, would require the state to spend an extra $30 million a year to hire more guards, additional psychologists, nurses, social workers and teachers, as well as improve a variety of other programs focuses on mental health and educational systems.

Despite the state’s ongoing budget crunch, these deficiencies are areas that government must look to improve upon.

It is simply unacceptable to say it is too costly to do it correctly so we are just going to do it half way.

For a system that serves nearly 1,700 children, these changes will safeguard the public safety and give the best chances for these youth to correct their mistakes and become contributing members of society.

The worst mistake we could make would be to write these individuals off as not worthy of rehabilitation or assistance. We have a social obligation to provide the services needed.

It won’t be easy — and it certainly won’t be cheap — but it will be something that will make a difference in our communities and make a difference in people’s lives.

For the state to admit it was wrong and acknowledge the need for a change was a move in the right direction.

The next step will be much more difficult to take but even more important to our state’s future.