LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A youth detention center in southeast Arkansas has been closed as part of Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s plan to streamline and improve the state’s juvenile system.
The Dermott Juvenile Treatment Center closed Thursday, becoming the second state youth detention facility to be shuttered this year. The first, Colt Juvenile Treatment Center, closed in January.
“We have a responsibility to provide a better quality, individualized treatment for our youth in the least restrictive setting, and this is another step towards that goal,” Hutchinson said in a written statement.
The last 10 of the center’s detainees were sent home sent or to other facilities, said Youth Services Division spokeswoman Marci Manley.
This week’s closure leaves five state juvenile lockups in operation.
Tom Masseau, who heads the nonprofit Disability Rights Arkansas, said his group has been monitoring the treatment of children in state lockups for years.
He said the closures are progress, but that they don’t tackle the deeper problems in the system.
“The closure of Dermott is a good step forward, but the state really needs to look at the other five facilities,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “There are problems at all the facilities.”
Disability Rights Arkansas found that children in state detention centers were sleeping or browsing the internet instead of learning. A 2018 report by the group concluded that employees at juvenile detention centers use excessive force, such as pepper-spraying and using restraints on children.
Masseau said he would like to see state Arkansas engage in more diversion tactics to keep kids out of prison and provide more effective treatment when they are incarcerated. He also wants the state to put more money into communities for their care.
“You put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig,” Masseau said. “You close two facilities, you’re not erasing those problems. They’re still there.”