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Letters: Rehabilitate juvenile offenders

Johnson City Press • Dec 6, 2019 at 6:00 AM

Want to have your voice heard? Send a Letter to the Forum. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected].

Rehabilitate juvenile offenders

In the wake of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, former governor Bill Haslam made an initial impact in reforming the juvenile justice system. A significant method has been through the creation of a task committee — Juvenile Justice Reform Implementation Council. But while growing juvenile crime, new Gov. Bill Lee and the council must find solutions and reforms that are less centered around “crime and punishment” and aim toward rehabilitation that ripples influence throughout the life of the juvenile and their surrounding communities.

A major concern comes from the lack of resources and opportunities for juvenile offenders and their families depending on their location within the state, which varies from rural to urban areas. A neutral system that both urban and rural areas have and can influence the lives of juveniles is within the school systems. A new focus on introducing social services for trauma and mental health for students should be considered by the council. Kathy Sinback, a court administrator at Davidson County Juvenile Courts, explained: “Crucial reforms would include growing trauma support services in local schools, where kids dealing with mental health issues and troubled home lives often act out for the first time.”

Some places have already successfully implemented school social workers, including Johnson City. However, a bigger initiative needs to be taken to include schools and social work officials into the conversation of juvenile justice reforms by allocating some of the budgets to help facilitate agreements between mental health agencies and local schools that will place social workers in a variety of schools across Tennessee.

When discussing reforms for juvenile justice, the focus shouldn’t be on what is the punishment of the crime, rather focus on alleviating problems that led to the crime through uplifting and care for the community.

AAMIR BULLITT
Milligan College

Balloons bad for wildlife

I read an article titled "Students mourn loss of classmate in crash" (Nov. 15). It talked about students at Valley Forge Elementary School participating in a memorial service of a 6-year-old boy tragically killed in an accident. My heart goes out to the parents, classmates and family of this little boy. The loss of a child is always tragic.

What horrified me was the method chosen by the teacher to honor this child’s memory. Balloon releases are not OK. They have consequences of epic proportions that are unseen when the balloons are finally out of sight.

Some years ago a teacher ran an experiment with students. They wrote letters, put them in balloons and released them. Some time later, one of the students’ letters was acknowledged by a child in Scotland! That one crossed the ocean. The response was astounding, but the tragedy lies in the ones that landed, causing injury and death to wildlife. Marine mammal rescue groups constantly find dead animals washed ashore who ingested balloons and other plastic debris. For many years, I sailed the Great South Bay and saw balloons floating on the water. We picked them up, but what happened to the ones that got away?

That is why knowledgeable people release doves, pigeons, butterflies and bubbles. Some towns forbid it in violation of litter laws. Maybe the balloons could have been released in a gym. Perhaps a campfire could have been lit and the letters of the students placed in the fire. Maybe planting a tree, garden or flowers in memorial or dedicating a playground bench. I am sure that if the children knew the dangers to animals, they would have chosen to do something else to honor their friend. It is up to us adults to educate ourselves and teach youngsters.

MARIE PENDZICH
Hampton

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