The goal of facilities like Long Creek Youth Development Center is to rehabilitate our youth so that they may reenter society as productive members. However, removing someone who has caused harm from society sends the message that they are not welcome in our communities and is counterproductive to helping youth develop a sense of connection to and responsibility for their physical and social environments.

Most youth who find themselves involved in the correctional system are there because they have experienced trauma in the forms of physical and/or emotional abuse and neglect. Placing them in a correctional institution makes them vulnerable to experiencing additional trauma and robs them of the opportunity to work with their communities to obtain support and learn to make positive contributions.

We should look to our youth who are struggling with behaviors that cause themselves and others harm with compassion and an understanding that no child who has all of their biological, psychological, social and spiritual needs met chooses a path that leads to the correctional system. Our efforts should be focused on providing support for these children while concurrently holding them accountable for their actions in a way that provides them with the opportunity to maintain their dignity as they restore justice to those they have harmed. I hope Gov. Mills will support restorative justice practices for our youth by signing L.D. 1668 into law.

Amanda Swanberg

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