Thank you for featuring the plight of juvenile offenders in the August 20
article on the findings of a congressional report. I believe that it is not
enough for Congress to only learn about the warehousing of these
youngsters—they should do something about it.
When youths with conduct disorder are locked up and youths with depression
are incarcerated alone despite a high risk of suicide, Congress should know
that it is time for action. By using detention centers as "psychiatric
waiting rooms," we run the risk of making young offenders who could
still be positively rehabilitated develop a deviant self-image and a sustained
I believe we should look to the United Kingdom for the answer. There, the
government provided increased funding to set up an effective court diversion
system and satellite juvenile mental health facilities. Such diversion
programs serve as "gatekeepers" to the court system and provide
the opportunity to discontinue criminal proceedings and institute treatment
for those found mentally ill.
With increased funding, states can create multiple satellite youth
treatment centers that could offer basic mental health services such as
counseling, vocational training, and behavior modification strategies. When
youth offenders are handled in this way, it avoids the contagious sociopathic
effect of staying too long in detention centers and facilitates
rehabilitation. I believe this would benefit the society at large.