New juvenile justice data are an indicator of a broader truth

The Winston-Salem Journal posted an editorial this morning that follows up on an encouraging story in Raleigh’s News & Observer over the weekend about juvenile crime.

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.

 

 

One Comment

  1. Frank Burns

    October 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

    The other broader point that I got from this story is the fact that this agency was willing to re-evaluate programs that weren’t working and change their processes. All government agencies need to be doing this. Too often we set a process in place, situation changes, that old process stays the same and tax dollars are wasted. It may be that a particular agency is no longer needed and work can be shifted to other agencies more effectively. Too often an agency is created, needs change yet that agency keeps doing what they’ve always done and accomplishes nothing useful.