Don't scrimp on juvenile justice

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Success rates in rehabilitating adult criminals are pretty dismal. The best chance at turning around criminal behavior is to get to them when they're young -- while their minds are still malleable and before they've had time to develop into hardened criminals.

This is why, despite severe economic and budget hardships, South Carolina should not be slashing tens of millions out of a juvenile justice budget that will force young criminals out of counseling programs and group homes into juvenile prisons.

There must be better places to make cuts than to curtail a program that has been enjoying impressive success in turning troubled young people away from a life of crime, and toward a better, constructive life. What's more important than that?

Putting kids in a prison system is virtually a nonstarter as far as rehabilitation goes.

"If you raise a child in prison," says Palmetto State Juvenile Justice Director Bill Byars, "you're going to raise a convict."

Byars should know, because he's credited with turning around a system once better known for warehousing children than counseling and teaching them life skills.

Yet he's now being asked by state budget-cutters to slash an additional 15 percent from a juvenile justice budget that since June has suffered $23 million in cuts.

Due to drastic reductions in tax revenues, the state must pare $1 billion from its original $7 billion budget.

To be sure, that's a lot of cutting. But such cuts should not be leveled willy-nilly, across all agencies and programs. That simply avoids making tough choices. A good budget-cutting program would evaluate, prioritize and force some hard decisions.

Some programs and agencies will deserve major cuts -- or perhaps be eliminated altogether. Others -- especially those that are working and benefiting people -- should be left alone, or even have their budgets increased.

Byars' juvenile justice would seem to fall in the latter category.

After all, what could be more important work than turning young, would-be criminals into honest, gainful adults?

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Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 01/11/09 - 03:33 am
When was the efficacy of the

When was the efficacy of the SC juvenile justice system- or the GA system, for that matter- evaluated by a disinterested external auditor?

elliottness 01/11/09 - 04:47 am
just think, in a perfect

just think, in a perfect world,where "parents" raised their children rather than expecting everyone else to,these funds could be used to help those who don't have kids behind fences, like i said in a perfect world.

bone 01/11/09 - 08:54 am
let's just explain it to

let's just explain it to juveniles like this:"you are children and deserve to behave as such & receive consequences as a child; when you begin making your own decisions like an adult, then you will receive consequences like an adult." what is so difficult about this? kids will be kids and i understand misbehavior / pushing boundaries of authority is always part of growing up; violence, though, should go straight to the top of the list as adult behaviors that should receive only adult consequences. drugs just shouldn't be something that causes a young person (under 18) to go to prison for any reason IMO.

getalife 01/11/09 - 09:53 am
As long as children grow up

As long as children grow up with the attitude that the "man" owes them a living and a militant attitude that because their ancestors were slaves they are entitled, then this society will continue to turn out drug dealers, drive-by shooters, robbers, murderers, rapist, etc. Children that are "raised" understand and respect our laws and our law enforcement, teachers, parents, etc.

justus4 01/11/09 - 10:32 am
The article make good sense,

The article make good sense, but fail to properly identify the real problem; The Prison Industrial Complex. Who is profitting from these Correctional Institutions? Once identified, it'll be also found that rehabilitation is a very small component of their budgets. Their priority is PROFIT, not preparing juveniles for a successful life and that's the real problem. And look at the communities affected most by such institutions... And look at the people who profits most by such institutions. Wow! These decision and their negative effects on particular groups are not accidents, they are by design. Now run and tell that...

patriciathomas 01/11/09 - 11:00 am
As senseless articles go,

As senseless articles go, this is one. The programs being cut are beyond inefficient, they're almost total failure. As long as you're raising children, you're going to get mater where it takes place. Raising adults is the goal. Instilling a sense of responsibility and integrity is the only way to create a member of society worth having. Teaching a child how to cut the risk of being arrested isn't the same as teaching a child to be an adult. These projects need to be defunded. The chance of them being replaced with responsible programs with sensible goals are slim. This is, after all, a government action we're talking about.

SargentMidTown 01/11/09 - 07:45 pm
Jails and prisons should be a

Jails and prisons should be a place of torment and pain. Death row needs to be cleared. Sell lotto tickets to see who gets to throw the switch. Bring back the chain gang. If the inmate is so hardened that they don't respond favorably eliminate them. We would see a rapid drastic reduction in crime.

SandyK2005 01/12/09 - 02:09 am
"Putting kids in a prison

"Putting kids in a prison system is virtually a nonstarter as far as rehabilitation goes. "If you raise a child in prison," says Palmetto State Juvenile Justice Director Bill Byars, "you're going to raise a convict."" ------ Correct. It's also something our communities doesn't need: a high school for criminals. And after skimming over some of the comments here, there needs to be a community prison for the sociopathic citizens in our midst. Furthermore, I thought "sargents" [sic] had to take criminal sociology classes for that rank (my dad sure had to get a degree in criminal justice, complete with courses in sociology and abnormal psychology, to understand the criminal mind and behavior --- but then again, APD had higher requirements). Has our combined police department dropped ITS standards now??

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