Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias It takes more than a village ?

"We're shutting the place down. We're going to treat this like a prison."

Those words from Gov. Bill Janklow earlier this week establish the current policy at the State Training School in Plankinton.

His comments come after a two-hour standoff Tuesday night involving seven juvenile inmates who escaped from their cells at the Juvenile Prison there.

The event ended peacefully after negotiators convinced the juveniles to return to their cells.

A 17-year-old boy who was mopping outside his cell apparently entered a plumbing closet, removed a pipe and levered open the cell doors for six other juveniles.

They used a fire extinguisher in an attempt to break

through wire-reinforced glass and broke fire sprinklers,

spreading water on the floor of the prison pod, Janklow

said.

The breakout was the latest problem at the facility, which has been embroiled in controversy since the July death of Gina Score, a 14-year-old Canton girl in the boot camp program. A criminal investigation of juvenile corrections staff continues.

Janklow noted that the swirling allegations surrounding the juvenile corrections system has created a circus atmosphere that is keeping staff from doing their jobs, Janklow said.

That must end, he said.

We agree. Hindsight is always 20-20, but two things seem to have grown glaringly apparent with time: 1) Gina Score shouldn't have died in the first place, and 2) Janklow should have sealed off the Plankinton facility right after her death.

Let's review what's happened since the tragic events of July.

The media initially did a good job of covering the circumstances surrounding Score's death. But to keep a constant flow of news coming from Plankinton, soon some media outlets were presenting us stories that stepped beyond the fringes of reporting the facts.

Soon, we were bombarded with comments from parents saying their children were abused in the boot camp. Democratic lawmakers also made such claims, based, they said, on conversations they had with some of the juveniles.

KELO-TV shows its viewers photos of bruises on the arms and legs of a female juvenile in the boot camp. It focuses its story on the girl's mother, who again raises the abuse claim.

KELO does throw in a few brief comments from Janklow in the story, who explains that the bruises aren't the result of abuse, but from the girl's constant physical struggles with guards at Plankinton. Some of the bruises likely may also have come from self-inflicted blows to the arms and legs.

Let's face it. Some of the youth at Plankinton are probably thriving on all of the attention the facility has received since July. Who knows? Perhaps it's the most attention they've received in their lives. Naturally, they're going to keep feeding the media tidbits of what will get aired on television or splashed on newspaper pages, whether it's true or not.

Janklow repeatedly noted long before the Score incident that it is tragic the way some youth in South Dakota are treated � not by the state, but by their own families.

Many of the juveniles incarcerated in state facilities never get a phone call or a visit from their own flesh and blood.

To paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a village to raise a child. Even those who disagree with that notion can detect perhaps a small kernel of truth in it. Raising our young is a difficult task, and no single family, school, or community can do it alone. Good families and good children can have hard times and need help.

And if for some reason the help is not available, the trouble can increase and the problems can deepen. That's why Plankinton deserves a cooling off period right now.

It is within the justice system that many youth receive services from other systems, such as the mental health system or the child welfare system.

Making Plankinton off limits for awhile is the right thing to do. Those services shouldn't be interrupted.

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