MJTC: Community Impact (part 6)

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This is part six in a series on the Juvenile Treatment Center, located just outside Mansfield. Throughout this series we will take an in-depth look into the program, find out what life is like for the offenders, workers and the impact it has on the area.

In this installment we will look at the impact the facility has had on the community.

See part 1

See part 2

-See part 3

-See part 4

-See part 5

“One person (Director, Mark Barton) has always been a mainstay at the camp and as long as he’s there, I know the community will remain safe,” said one nearby resident.

With all the changes the state has implemented, it’s left the community wondering what’s happening behind the gate. This uncertainty has fueled concerns for safety and security. In the most recent escape from the MJTC, two of the four juveniles were captured in close proximity to the Mansfield Middle School and another was captured close to the elementary school.

“I found out about the escape on the news that morning,” said Mansfield Superintendent Robert Ross. “I knew they were looking for them in town and made the decision to put the school on lock down.”

Recently, Ross was able to express his frustrations to Governor Asa Hutchinson. “I informed him that this was not ok. To have to put our school on lock down for three hours is not good. It poses a danger to our schools and our students.” Ross admitted that someone dropped the ball on communicating with him on the escape. Additionally, Ross informed the governor that “the people you’re sending don’t fit the facility.”

The high stress situation this creates for the school and administrators also affects residents. Mansfield Mayor, Buddy Black said he will be addressing the issue of the school not being notified. “Either city hall or the police department will be communicating with the school.”

Black added that when the facility was privatized, it operated much more efficiently. “I take it seriously,” he said. “We have to address this…We have tougher people out there and I’m hoping it lands in the hands of a private contractor, which will help.”

It hasn’t always been this way, however. A former MJTC worker said when the kids were able to do community service, they developed a great rapport with the town and “the mayor knew some of the kids by their first name.”

The administrators and staff at the MJTC have felt the effects of these changes mandated by the state. In the next installment we will look at the impact it’s had on the employees.

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Tammy Teague

Tammy Teague

Mansfield native, with roots in Scott County. Daughter, sister, wife and Christian. Education: 1995 MHS graduate; 1999 Arkansas Tech University Graduate - BA in Journalism. Career: Managing Editor - The Citizen; Copy Writer - Southwest Times Record; 20+ years experience in the news.

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