State must address juvenile detention crunch

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — When the Salem Industrial Home for Youth was re-purposed as an adult facility, the decision was hailed as a win-win for the state.

The Industrial Home was the target of a lawsuit alleging it was operated more like an adult facility instead of a youth home, which violated state law in terms of the handling of juvenile offenders.

Plus, the renovated facility has filled a void in the adult prison system.

All agree the transition of Salem has been successful and has provided much needed beds for adult prisoners.

But the change hasn’t solved the state’s problems when it comes to handling juvenile offenders. In fact, it has helped to make it worse.

As the Charleston Gazette reported Monday, state officials are desperately trying to find solutions for overcrowding at several youth facilities in Boone, Hampshire, Fayette and Wood counties.

The state has resorted to double bunking offenders, which has led to an increase in violent confrontations, state officials report.

The Gazette article reported a “near riot” situation at the Wood County facility, which resulted “in more than $40,000 in damages.”

At the Fayette facility, five youths tried to overpower a guard and escape by spraying cleaning solution at him, the Gazette reported.

A spokeswoman for the union that represents correctional workers said staff members are concerned about safety risks.

“Our team has been doing their level best to manage this,” Elaine Harris told the Gazette, “but right now, we are at a crisis situation…

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