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IT MIGHT have been Frederick Douglass who said it's easier to build a strong child than to fix a broken man. Once again, he's been proven right.

The news types at Arkansas' Newspaper have been putting a lot of time into an investigation of the state's juvenile justice system. Juvenile justice, it seems, changes county by county in this state because there doesn't appear to be much of a uniform standard for which kids get which punishment, and how their cases are handled, evaluated, completed. Not yet, anyway.

The state's Supreme Court youth commission hired an outfit called the Robert F. Kennedy National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice to evaluate probation systems around the state. The study found that kids and their families didn't always get the help they needed.

Some judges say they've not read the report. Sometimes assessment tools aren't used as suggested. And it's disconcerting the way Arkansas pays the officers who work with these kids, and the hours We the People require of them.

One juvenile probation officer told our reporters that her caseload can sometimes run up to 120 kids.

Imagine having 120 kids to work with. Troubled kids. And we expect what from that kind of workload? Success? A public defender, in another part of our fractured system, said the state needs to spend more "resources," that is, money, but .... "It's just not going to happen. That's the real world. Sadly, the kids are suffering for it."

Justice Rhonda Wood, leading the Supreme Court's Commission on Children, Youth and Families, said she hopes to see, even propose, changes at the 2019 Legislature, telling our reporters: "I'm sick of patching the roof. I want to see real reform." So would most of us.

The juvenile system is different from the adult system, and should be. In the end, all these kids are going to walk out of the courtroom and back into our communities. (The worst young offenders can be tried as adults.) When it comes to juvenile justice, reform and rehab should be the focus.

Patching the roof isn't cutting it. We the People have got to put more effort--and yes, that means money--into this.

Editorial on 03/13/2018

Print Headline: Patching the roof

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