Officials: Youth justice needs reform

Published 10:00 am Friday, September 18, 2015

Juvenile detention administrators from across the state met Wednesday at Warren County Youth Court to discuss mental health services for teens and a continued push to establish uniform procedures across the state’s juvenile justice system.

“The juvenile justice system in this state is pitiful, especially from a mental health standpoint. We’re lucky to have River Region here in Vicksburg where we can send these troubled children,” Warren County Judge Price, who has jurisdiction over youth court, told members of the Mississippi Association of Juvenile Detention Professionals.

Those who work in juvenile justice have been trying for years to get the state to pass a set of best practice standards, said Rick Smith, president of MAJDP.

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

“That was supposed to go before a vote last year. We spent 12 to 18 months as part of that task force really hammering out standards for juvenile detention. Unfortunately it was tabled last year,” Smith said.

Price encouraged each of the juvenile detention administrators to take an active roll in contacting legislators to get the reforms passed.

“If there’s anything we can do to help, let us know. I’m very active in writing letters to our representatives over in Jackson and explaining what we need. One of them complete lack of uniformity. We have an elaborate system here in Vicksburg. Our supervisors put the money up for us to do a lot of this,” Price said.

Smith said he and other members of the association will encourage legislators to put the reform pack to a vote in the 2016 session.

“We’re hoping it will be brought before the legislature this session and voted on and put into practice,” Smith said.

Warren County is fortunate, Price said, because of the number of services available for young offenders. Many counties have no detention center or programs to help rehabilitation efforts.

“We like to put a lot of positive in what we’re doing in Youth Court and with the Juvenile Detention Center. I like the community to know what we’re trying to do as far as the youth,” said Kathy Holden, administrator of the Warren County Youth Detention Center.

Price also encouraged members of the association to invite local grand juries to tour their facilities.

“They’re the ones who pay your salaries, so they need to be in on what’s going on. I take the position that since they’re part of the judiciary they can sit in and observe. I of course tell them about confidentiality,” Price said.