Sunday, August 1, 2004

Critics say juvenile prisons run like adults'

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Officials who previously worked in adult prisons now run six of Ohio's eight youth-detention centers, raising concerns among critics who fear that the centers are becoming junior versions of adult prisons.

Ohio Department of Youth Services officials say employees who worked in the adult system have valuable experience needed to deal with juveniles who committed adult-size crimes.

During the past six years, Youth Services has appointed former wardens and officials with adult-prison backgrounds to the six juvenile facilities.

Charles Lehman, who retired last August after 12 years as an administrator with Youth Services, said problems at the juvenile facilities can be attributed to budget cuts and the influx of former adult-prison officials.

"When you start doing away with all the programs and treat juvenile institutions as if they're adult institutions, you get these problems," Lehman said. "Kids are different."

Critics like Lehman say the state should place employees who specialize in youth detention at the centers.

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