View Full Version : NEWS STORY: Juvenile Justice Proposal

08-26-2004, 09:52 PM

By Davis Brister (

A state lawmaker says he will recommend a major overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system. Several lawsuits have been filed, including one from the US Department of Justice, alleging abuse at two juvenile training facilities. The focus is to prevent youth from making mistakes, instead of correcting them.

It's been a busy summer for the house juvenile justice committee... taking tours of Columbia and Oakley training schools... and listening to how to improve conditions there.

Mark Steward, Youth Services Director, says, "When we had large training schools that were more like prisons, there was a lot of violence in the prisons, the juvenile prisons. There were kids being hurt, they were angry."

Thursday, the committee brought in officials from Missouri, a state they say has one of the best juvenile justice programs anywhere. "90 percent or better of kids don't go onto prison now."

Steward says they got rid of their schools, similar to ours. "We have secure care facilities but they're small. They're in different regions of the state, the kids are not looked up in cells. The kids are not treated like prisoners, they're treated like kids."

The appearance of Steward and Missouri Supreme Court Justice Stephen Limbaugh was welcomed by one organization, who's filed a lawsuit against the state.

Sheila Bedi is an attorney for the MS Center for Justice. She says, "Missouri knows how to do it. They're willing to come here to Mississippi and show us how to do it, and I think we need to take them up on that offer."

That's exactly what the committee plans to do. Chairman George Flaggs will unveil his plan October 1st. He says, "It will be the vehicle for this state to get away from the lawsuit, get us a better attitude toward our children and it will hold more accountability to state agencies that governs our children."

Flaggs says other recommendations will be made, and it will not require any new state dollars. The US Justice department lawsuit is still pending.