Since July 1, when the private firm Youth Opportunity Investments took over, three juveniles have escaped custody. The deteriorating conditions at the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center have residents and officials seeking answers.
In an effort to bring these issues to light, Mansfield Mayor Buddy Black, Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion, Senator Terry Rice, a Youth Opportunity Investments and state DHS representative will meet.
Attorney from YOI, Gary Sallee, said their company has “great success, and that they have a commitment from the state to make the necessary changes.”
Those changes, according to Sallee, have already begun. He added that the current conditions at the center are “far below our standard.”
He confirmed that long time MJTC Director Mark Barton had recently resigned. “We have a million priorities at Mansfield,” said Sallee. “We had an ombudsman visit yesterday, and they were shocked by the changes that have already taken place…We will work with the people and the community.”
The privatized firm, according to Sallee, has a good track record for containment. In fact, he stated that escapes are practically non existent.
“Someone needs to do a better job at assessment. The boy who escaped two days ago had previously escaped 11 times.”
With time, stated Sallee, the community will see a big change.