Monday, August 10, 2009

Rural disadvantage in the context of juvenile justice

Solomon Moore reports in today's New York Times on the trend to incarcerate or otherwise institutionalize youthful offenders--including those who are mentally ill--because of the lack of community resources to support diversion programs and other alternatives. The story begins and ends with the example of Donald, who has been in the Ohio River Juvenile Correctional Facility for two years. Moore does not tell the reader Donald's home county, but my hunch based on these passages is that it is rural. Why? Because of the reported lack of infrastructure and resources to help a young man like Donald. Two excerpts follow:
Although he had received diagnoses for psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, a judge decided that Donald would get better care in the state correctional system than he could get anywhere in his county.
This quote is from the director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services, and he's describing Donald.

“He’s been in 130 fights since he’s been with us, and there were no resources in the small county he’s from to deal with him,” Mr. Stickrath said. “Our staff worked to get him in a sophisticated psychiatric residential program, but they said he had to leave because he was attacking staff.”

Mr. Stickrath shook his head. “He just wears you out.”

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