Juvenile Justice Head Defends State's Oldest Facility

Mar 4, 2016

Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander.
Credit Arkansas Department of Human Services

The head of Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Juvenile Justice Reform Board is disputing an advocacy group’s characterization of the state’s oldest youth facility as “notorious.”

Youth First, a criminal justice reform group, ranked the state’s Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander as one of the nation’s 80 worst.

Marcus Devine, Director of Youth Services at the Department of Human Services, said that’s hyperbole.  

“We try to make sure we provide services to [youth] that include education, health services, behavioral health services, and really rehabilitation," he said.

"We think children's brains are different than adults, we hope we can make an impact on them and keep them from going deeper into the system." 

He acknowledged there was a spike in violence among youth at the facility in 2015.

78 percent of Arkansas’ over 526 youth in lockups are low to medium- risk offenders, according to data from the Yoth Services Division.

Devine said part of the board's job will be to determine which of those youth should continue to be behind bars.