A March 28 article, “House narrowly approves bill to send fewer youths to troubled prison,” discussed the amendment to L.D. 1779, which proposes the implementation of a needs assessment for justice-involved youth as a means of diverting them away from Long Creek.

I am disappointed that the amended bill does not seem to hold the same weight in that it doesn’t seek the repurposing of this facility and the creation of community-based alternatives. Our young people are faced with all kinds of struggles, challenges and trauma. We need to identify the root causes of their actions, find restorative and transformative ways to address the harm they’ve caused and give them stable, secure spaces to heal, learn, grow and make healthy goals and plans for the future.

At the same time, our currently incarcerated youth need to be surrounded with adults who are committed to their well-being. This means we must create healthy environments that adults feel good about, that not only honor the children’s needs, but honor their needs, as de facto caregivers. Our entire system needs an overhaul. The way we approach rehabilitation of youth who have caused harm needs to change and we need to invest in proper training for the adults that support them in a way that gives them plenty of education, supervision and a wage that reflects the mental, intellectual and physical toll that this kind of work requires. These types of changes will benefit our wider community.

Yedidah Gifty Ameyaw

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