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Tennessee editorial roundup

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 31, 2014 at 1:29 pm •  Published: December 31, 2014

Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:

Dec. 29

The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, on state's worst teen offenders:

It is good to see that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services is waging a two-pronged effort to curb violence at its troubled youth detention centers, which house some of the state's most incorrigible teen criminal offenders.

While two of the three centers — Woodland Hills in Nashville and Mountain View in East Tennessee — have had issues, Woodland Hills made national headlines Sept. 1 when more than 30 teenagers escaped. All eventually were recaptured.

The escape was the first of three major issues at the facility that month, which also included a riot and another escape by 13 teens.

DCS has increased security at Woodland Hills and is adjusting its behavior-modification program with the aim of preventing future rioting and escapes.

We hope it works. Although the centers house some of the state's worst teen criminal offenders, every effort should be made to ensure their safety and the safety of staff. And there must be effective programs in place to give the teens a chance to rehabilitate their lives. This is particularly important since almost all of them will be released back into society when they reach age 19.

The Woodland Hills center has reinforced with concrete the bottom of a fence that surrounds the facility and reinforced aluminum panels under dormitory windows that the teens kicked out during the first escape. The panels and windows also have been covered with mesh steel.

The facility's behavioral-modification program is being tweaked to be more incentive-based and less of a punitive blueprint. That could convince the most hardened offenders to be more responsible in their interactions with fellow inmates and staff.

The situation should be helped by DCS's decision to send several of the escapees to a facility in Texas to receive treatment because of their continued unruliness. DCS, however, has arranged for each of the transferred teens to be visited by a family member, along with case workers from Woodland Hills.

Experts in juvenile criminal justice say that making sure teen offenders maintain contact with family members is an important component of rehabilitation efforts.

Independent investigations of problems at the centers pointed to lax procedures brought about by understaffing and long hours, exacerbated by the inability to attract employees because of low pay.

During a recent visit with The Commercial Appeal's editorial board, Gov. Bill Haslam was asked about the centers and whether they would be impacted by his request that state department heads find 7 percent reductions in their proposed budgets. The governor said it is likely the centers may be spared budget cuts, and that DCS is working on ways to boost the number and professionalism of staff at the centers.

It would be a prudent investment in the effort to rehabilitate these young men.



Dec. 29

News Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, on preserving Oak Ridge legacy:

With a Senate vote on Dec. 12, Congress approved the establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The passage of the act represents the successful culmination of a campaign waged for longer than a decade.

Oak Ridge — along with Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington — will be one of three sites that make up the park.

The park presents an opportunity for Oak Ridge and the surrounding areas to benefit in a new way from the weapons and research efforts begun 72 years ago. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be the 10th National Park Service unit in East Tennessee.

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