Silverman: The Real Problem with Juvenile Justice

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Amy Silverman of New Times weighs in on the state's proposed juvenile-justice hand-off:

Maricopa County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick describes the population at the ADJC as "dangerous," but the truth is that only about 15 percent placed in ADJC facilities in 2009 were there for violent crimes, according to court statistics. (The rest violated probation or were convicted of misdemeanors or felony property crimes.) At least twice that number are seriously mentally ill and, by the department's own admission, do not belong in secure facilities. The system is ill and it's making sick kids sicker.

That's the danger. And, by and large, it's one best addressed, the experts agree, by community-based programs and therapy provided outside a locked facility. Judges need to be educated — perhaps a daunting task but one far less expensive than locking kids up and throwing away the key.

The problem?

And yet Rosenberg, whose organization sent the governor a detailed letter on the topic, sounds defeated already.

"Unfortunately, I am not certain anyone is listening or really cares about real reform in the good sense of the word," she commented earlier this week.

Instead, the governor's trying to play Hot Potato by passing costs to other government entities, and here in Maricopa County, this is just one more reason for the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors to engage in battle. Too bad. But that's just part of Arizona's rich history when it comes to juvenile corrections failures.

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