Budget cuts may threaten juvenile justice

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s human nature to fear things that we know to be potentially harmful to us.

From early ages, we learn that hot things can burn us and not doing what we’re told can lead to punishment.

Our society is based on the fundamental belief that actions deemed to be criminal by the majority of citizens are subject to group punishment.

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It’s a beautiful system so long as there’s an ultimate punishment at the end.

But like a lion that has been declawed and had all his teeth removed, once that critical, ultimate level of punishment is removed, the system begins to fall apart.

Without fear of facing something truly bad, the criminal element loses an incentive for staying out of trouble. This is particularly so when dealing with still impressionable youth and children.

Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson worries the state’s current financial woes may lead to the loss of that final level of punishment for juvenile offenders.

The state’s only juvenile reform school, Oakley Training School, is in the crosshairs of state budget snipers.

Hudson’s concerns are serious. If the reform school is closed, the state will lose a significant advantage in the quest to reform juvenile offenders.

Mississippi faces a number of tough budget decisions in the year ahead, but we hope lawmakers will think through the full ramifications of some cuts including cuts that affect our justice system’s ability to walk tall and carry a big stick.