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Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

Imagine if they printed more stories like this...

Friday, July 02, 2004

Spare the Rod, Save the Child
Missouri's youth prisons focus on small groups, therapy, caring. Officials in California's punishment-oriented system are taking a look.

By Jenifer Warren
Times Staff Writer

July 1, 2004

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — There are no handcuffs, no razor-wire fences, no uniforms, no cells. Missouri does things differently in its prisons for young people, and it shows — in what you see and what you don't.

Inmates, referred to as "kids," live in dorms that feature beanbag chairs, potted plants, stuffed animals and bunk beds with smiley-face comforters. Guards — who are called "youth specialists" and must have college degrees — go by their first names and don't hesitate to offer hugs.

At the maximum-security lockup in St. Joseph, two cats, Midnight and Tigger, curl up on laps as the state's toughest teenage offenders explore the roots of their anger, weep over the acts of abusive parents and swap strategies for breaking free of gangs. At another facility in Kansas City, boys who rack up months of good behavior earn the right to attend summer basketball camp.

"The old corrections model was a failure; most kids left us worse off than when they came in," said Mark Steward, the chief of Missouri's youth penal system. "So we threw away that culture, and now we focus on treatment, on making connections with these guys and showing them another way…. It works."

This is a must read, but it requires free registration, sorry.