As the Journal notes in describing the state’s successful move away from the “lock ‘em up” approach favored in years gone by:
“The change took children out of prison-like environments and put them into therapeutic centers with educational opportunities and counseling on how to handle the problems that life throws at us. In short, we stopped being hell-bent on punishing youth, first and foremost, an approach that often simply turned rookie criminals into more efficient criminals. In its place, the state implemented a rescue plan, a program by that concentrated on the potential next generation of adult criminals. State services were used to intervene, rescuing these children before they were lost for good.”
Put simply, state officials have begun to move in the direction of constructing a service system that pays attention. It mobilizes personnel and resources to intentionally solve problems with individualized attention rather than simply establishing harsh punishments and demanding that children comply for fear of grievous sanction.
Would that we could learn some lessons from this news and begin to apply them throughout state government. The truth of the matter, of course, is that appropriately marshaled and intentionally and thoughtfully applied public structures and services can improve the quality of life in society in all sorts of important ways — whether it’s cleaning up the planet, providing high quality and affordable health care to all or educating our kids. If we can make headway in a vexing area like juvenile crime, there’s no reason we can’t do it in dozens of others if only we put our minds (and resources) behind the effort.