You may have heard about how 32 teenagers escaped from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services’ Woodland Hills Youth Development Center last week. Most of them are back in custody, but the community wants answers. Why did it take so long for officials to contact the police about the escape? What are they going to do to prevent this in the future?
This week, DCS leaders held a community meeting to try and answer some of those questions.
But I want to draw special attention to comments made by DCS interim commissioner Jim Henry:
… Henry also pleaded with the community for their help.
In a number of ways, Henry told the crowd that “education is the way out” of the situations that many of the youth in the juvenile system come from. He also urged Tennessee’s numerous churches to produce more foster families. Henry added that “we need more church services” and said that in his experience a conversion to a religion was the only thing that truly rehabilitated people behind bars.
Religion never kept people from going to prison and it’s not a magical potion that’ll keep them from ever going back in. There’s a difference between faith as an automatic solution and dedicating your life to a worthwhile cause (which may include religion).
Henry’s right about education — I imagine even moreso when we’re talking about teenagers — but teaching those kids useful skills that’ll enable them to get jobs when they leave prison also helps.
But if religious conversion is the only foolproof elixir he’s ever seen, I have serious concerns about his ability to manage the DCS.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)