Flaggs wants juvenile lockup to be treatment facility|[12/28/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2005

State Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg, announced his Mississippi Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act of 2006 today, a package of legislation that includes changing one of the state’s two secure correctional facilities for youths into a preventive treatment center.

The bill follows juvenile-justice reform legislation guided to passage by Flaggs in 2004. It would change Columbia Training School in Marion County into a non-secure drug and alcohol treatment center by July 2007.

Alternative uses for the school would be developed by the Department of Human Services, including programs for at-risk youths, adolescent substance abuse treatment and programs for youths too old for foster care, but not yet self-sufficient.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Oakley Training School at Raymond in Hinds County would continue to house male and female youths.

The bill that Flaggs will file at the start of the legislative session Jan. 3 also aims to streamline the process of how juvenile offenders are moved through the criminal justice system, Flaggs said.

&#8220What it does is focus more on prevention and community-based programs to reduce incarceration,” said Flaggs, who works as a counselor for Warren County Youth Court.

Among the bill’s provisions are minimum standards for the 18 juvenile detention facilities operated by counties, including the one in Vicksburg. When admitting offenders, immediate medical and mental health screenings would be required.

The act would require legal counsel be provided in juvenile court cases and that youth court-appointed attorneys receive training in juvenile justice issues.

Parents of delinquent youths would be required to undergo drug testing and could face fines from youth courts if orders of the court are not followed.

It would also amend several sections of state law that deal with how long juvenile offenders are held in detention centers.

The act would prohibit placing youths with mental and physical limitations in paramilitary programs at the remaining training school, as well as seeing to it that detention centers would provide certified educational services.

&#8220Juveniles shouldn’t be denied an education while in custody,” Flaggs said. Here, Vicksburg Warren School District faculty have classes for those being held.

Grant programs would become available for local governments to set up their own alternatives to incarceration. Such a grant would be established with a $5 million issuance of general fund bonds.

Separately, Flaggs will visit Walnut Grove Correctional Facility Thursday to talk with Tyler Edmonds, 15, one of the youngest in the United States to be sentenced to life in prison without parole under the state statute establishing that penalty for all murder convictions.

Flaggs plans to form a subcommittee to explore reforms in the way the state treats children tried as adults. He said an exception, which would not apply to Edmonds, should be considered under which those convicted of murders committed when younger than 18 might be granted parole by a presiding judge.

Flaggs, the senior member of the Warren County legislative delegation, has been a member of the House since 1988. He chairs the House Juvenile Justice Committee.