I spent the last three months visiting with Little Rock officials, former camp workers and youth, city and state leaders. The bottom line is, this series on the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center changed me.
I began researching the topic after someone inquired what kind of kids were housed there. In the quest to find that information, I only found more questions. Eight publications later, I feel I merely scratched the surface.
Our current Sheriff, Hobe Runion said something to me in an interview that really resounded with me. He said when people with mental illness act out, people don’t care what we do with them as long as we take them away. “Out of sight, out of mind.”
So, how many of us have been guilty of just assuming all these years the camp kids have been out of sight out of mind until there is an escape attempt. I’m guilty…and this series changed me.
God opened my eyes to the compassion and mission work of the church member who spends her Tuesday evenings with the girls doing a Bible study. She and others who come and minister to the kids on a regular basis making sure those kids have something for Christmas.
I saw the heart of MJTC Director, Mark Barton. His connection with these kids have made the difference in many lives, and hearing from a few of them, it changed me.
Coming to the realization of how bureaucracy and red tape can be a hinderance instead of a help, and all the frustrations of knowing that this program works if those who are in a place to help, are allowed to their job.
Somehow I feel emotionally tied to this place, it may be considered unprofessional, but some stories really hit home, just as this one has.
This series changed me, I’m none to proud to admit it. I wanted to thank those who helped me, advised me and educated me. Some didn’t want their names mentioned, and I respect that, but know you are appreciated.