Arizona has agreed to reform its juvenile corrections department after a federal investigation found rampant abuse, poor suicide prevention, and other problems in three of the agency’s facilities, the Arizona Republic reports. The agreement with the U.S. Justice Department calls for increased staffing, improved training, expanded mental health and special-education programs, and procedures to prevent suicides and abuse. Noting that the agency is already pursuing many of the reforms, Gov. Janet Napolitano said her administration is committed to restoring confidence in the youth detention facilities in Arizona and making them national models. Napolitano said every staff member cited in the report for abusing youth has been dismissed except one who was cleared; 38 employees have either resigned or been fired since the federal report was released in January.
The governor has appointed a task force on juvenile corrections reform that is reviewing department policy and considering broader changes, such as expanding community-based programs for juvenile offenders. Task force member Beth Rosenberg of the Children’s Action Alliance, said, “Plans on paper don’t necessarily mean anything without the action and the resources and the leadership to turn them into reality. There needs to be support at both the executive level and the legislative level to make this agreement a reality.”