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Sending juveniles to Spokane facility wrong for many reasons

Letter to the Editor


Moving the Omak juvenile detention facility to a psychiatric prison outside of Spokane disregards the needs of vulnerable Okanogan children in several ways:

• State laws mandate that these marginalized children remain in their communities whenever possible. We have a civic and legal responsibility to take care of our own children.

• Already at-risk children deserve a local therapeutic setting, rather than exposure to a maximum-security psychiatric prison system hours away. Reintegration is much more difficult when children are separated from family, probation officers, attorneys, and therapists during detention.

• Okanogan County is one of the poorest counties in the state. The three-hour drive to visit detained children would be difficult if not impossible for working and/or impoverished families.

• Many of the detainees are Native Americans, and family ties and Native ways are a vital part of the Native American culture. It makes little sense to send troubled children 136 miles away from their families to a white prison system.

• It is unsafe to house children at Martin Hall along with hundreds of adult psychiatric patients. Security cannot be guaranteed, and patients who are under civil commitment are allowed unsupervised leaves, an open campus and other privileges. Our teenagers should not be housed near adults with serious psychiatric issues.

• Martin Hall is privately owned, and as the U.S. adult prison system has shown, privatization often results in dangerously substandard medical care, nutrition, and security.

When I was 16 years old, I spent an evening in a local juvenile detention facility. If I had been sent in chains to a maximum security facility hours away, I can only imagine how I would have reacted at that age: furious, hysterical, abandoned and possibly combative (I was a teenager).

It doesn’t take a lot for a teenager to react inappropriately, and a mishandled minor crime could turn into a life-damaging event for vulnerable children.

Carole Schroeder RN, PhD


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