This is part three 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 juvenile offenders at the Mansfield location, how they ended up there and a their daily routine.
So, how do these youth end up in facilities such as the MJTC? According to DHS Deputy Director Keesa Smith, “a juvenile judge ultimately makes the determination of the delinquent. A majority of them are non-violent.” She added that most are there because they’ve committed property crimes. “The type of offenders vary greatly from misdemeanor to felony charges.” Smith did note however, that the Mansfield location does not get murderers, although there are offenders there which are considered moderate to high risk.
Originally, according to Senator Terry Rice, when the MJTC began operating in 1994, his father Senator Bud Rice, was assured that there would be no violent offenders at the Mansfield location. Following a sit down meeting with Little Rock officials two weeks ago, Rice said, “I think DHS needed to be reminded of that promise.”
Once remanded to a DHS facility, the juvenile undergoes an evaluation. This includes physical, dental and mental health screenings. Then, the determination for placement is made. The youth’s placement is in part based on their propensity to run. “Mansfield does have some offenders that are considered high-risk,” added Smith. They are placed there because of its terrain, presumably the landscape serves as a deterrent for those looking to flee.
The typical age range for offenders at the Mansfield location is between 15-18 years old. “Youth may stay past their 18th birthday if they are Extended Juvenile Jurisdiction youth, which are those who a judge decides can be kept in DYS custody until age 21, and require a secure placement,” said Marci Manley, Deputy Chief of Communications.
Statewide, the population by race is: 50 percent white, 40 percent black and 10 percent other. Arkansas District 13, which lies in the northeast portion of Garland County, made up the greatest number of commitments to the juvenile system in 2018. –See DYS statistical report.
Currently, Mansfield has a capacity of 42 beds. After July 1, and a restructuring of the system statewide, the number of beds will increase by 16. Currently, the facility has 24 boys and 12 girls (as of 1/9/19.)
Below is the typical daily schedule for Mansfield. According to DHS, “the programs are designed to equip youth with the skills they need to reach their highest potential. Foremost among these skills is the ability to make good choices: continuing their education, finding a good job or career, avoiding illegal and harmful drugs, respecting the laws of their community, interacting positively with their family and peers, keeping physically fit and mentally sound, in short, choosing to do what is good for them and their futures.”
The DYS program seeks to teach these skills in all of the daily activities: education, work groups, therapy groups, individual counseling, community service, dining hall and dorm activities, optional religious services and special events planned to enhance their learning experience.
5:00 AM-5:30 AM
5:30 AM-6:00 AM
6:00 AM-6:25 AM
6:30 AM-7:30 AM
7:30AM – 7:55 AM
8:00 AM – 11:35 AM
11:40 AM-12:05 PM
Case Manager 1
12:05 PM-12:55 PM
Case Manager 2
Large Muscle Exercises/Recreation
1:00 PM – 3:50 PM
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
5:05 PM-5:30 PM
Case Manager 1
5:35 PM-6:35 PM
Large Muscle Exercises/Recreation
6:40 PM-7:20 PM
7:25 PM-8:25 PM
8:30 PM-9:00 PM
Upon release, DHS reports that 27 percent of offenders find their way back into juvenile facilities. When completing their time in the facility, the juvenile is either released on probation or under aftercare. According to former MJTC employee, Dana Adkins, “They need close follow up and frequent check in’s after their departure.”
“I’ve seen kids cry when being released,” said one former MJTC employee. “They bond with the staff.”
Staff and administrators who have spent several decades working with these troubled youth, know what works. Experience has changed their perspective and given them a new view on success for these kids. “My definition of success changed,” the former MJTC worker said. “I always thought success was a white picket fence, you know, the American dream.” One case in particular changed their view. “I had transported one of the kids back home… the grandmother said ‘I don’t know why you brought him home, he will just go back.’ And, later, he did end up in prison. However, while he was at Mansfield he completed his GED. The aftercare counselor contacted me and said the youth was a success because he didn’t kill anyone.”
Ultimately, those who have worked with these kids learn that success is measured differently for each of them and that some have almost no chance of achieving that “dream.”
Local pastor, and one who has worked with juveniles all across the state said, “I’ve never seen one of these kids go to one of these places and turn their life around unless there is a wake up call to the family and they become more proactive.” He went on to add that his interaction in these places have been overall negative. However, he admitted he cannot comment directly on the Mansfield facility as he has neither visited nor interacted with the youth there. He has been privy to conversations with employees at the MJTC, and they expressed concerns regarding the lack of discipline and boundaries. “These workers feel like there is no recourse if the kids don’t do what they are supposed to do. Many come from homes with little or no boundaries and end up in a place like this and it only further adds to the problem.” Although he recognizes there are no clear cut answers, he feels like adult prisons, isolated from the main population, would be a better option. “I think that most people are doing the best they can with a situation where there are no easy decisions or choices to be made, and I don’t have the answers either.” Ultimately, “we need to reach these kids before they get here, by the time they get into the juvenile system, we’ve waited to long.”
In part four of this series, we will visit with some former youth who spent time at the facility.