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Spring may be the usual time for cleaning house, but this year, in Arkansas' house, it's the fall.

And the first bunch of stuff to throw out has a name, misleading as it is: Youth Opportunity Investments LLC. It needs to be junked, high-sounding name and all, on the basis of how it has run (into the ground) the treatment/torture center at Lewisville, where this soulless corporation has enacted scenes out of cheap horror film: restraining kids with zip ties overnight, forcing them face down onto the floor, slamming them into walls, and obliging them to urinate into Gatorade bottles or foam cups.

This isn't something out of a lurid comic book, but part of the official report of an ombudsman of a state official named Brooke Digby, who doesn't have to hide behind a corporate name. The other day, Youth Opportunity Investments sacked the director of this whole mismanaged and misnamed operation at Lewisville as well as its assistant director and a "direct care" staffer. And not a moment too soon.

But justice will not be done till every penny of the taxpayers' money has been recovered. Plus interest. To quote the ombudsman, "I realize mistakes happen. . . . But this is far past a mistake or a growing pain. This is not treatment--this is torture."

Arkansas' Newspaper could not have said it more aptly. It took the state's ombudsman three pages to enumerate the evidence against this corporate culprit, including "cuts and bruises" on kids' wrists and "lingering imprints from zip-ties" that were days old.

Acting on behalf of the people of Arkansas, four inspectors were sent to assess the damage inflicted on its charges. But complete justice won't be done until everyone responsible for this flagrant abuse of these kids is gone. No, not all these kids were angels, but none of them should have been treated this way. What we had at Lewisville was institutionalized bullying, and it must not be tolerated.

There are only 32 beds at the Lewisville juvenile treatment center, but to its inmates the place must have seemed as deep and implacable as hell itself. It was home to some of the "more resistant juveniles who are commonly disruptive in milder settings," according to the state's Department of Human Services' website.

But that is no reason to torment them. This same faceless corporation operates such centers at Dermott, Harrisburg and Mansfield under a contract that brings it $15.8 million a year in public funds. O justice! What crimes may be committed in thy name! Like any suspect, Youth Opportunity Investments deserves to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. But happily, the state is now on its trail.

Lest we forget, these kids are in juvee. That means they will all get out one day. Nobody goes to juvee for life. The really, really bad kids can even be tried as adults and sent to the big house. Anybody in a juvenile detention center, however, will walk free one day. Would it be better to help them, or zip-tie them, before putting them on the street? Maybe your street.

Not satisfied to be a dubious warder of these kids, this corporation tries to act as an editor of what information will appear in Arkansas' Newspaper about its stewardship. Asked for the full names, title and salaries of its employees, Youth Opportunity declined to reveal them to the public.

"The names, titles and salaries are not information we are comfortable sharing at this time." Besides, a spokesman added, "that information seems insignificant to any story to be told." At least there are some things it's not comfortable with. But the comfort of the inmates seemed the furthest thing from its corporate mind.

Here's hoping that statement will not be the end of this scandalous affair and that it's--

To Be Continued.

Editorial on 09/05/2019

Print Headline: This is treatment?

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