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Texas Officials Offer Advice On Mississippi Children’s Justice

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Apr 2011 04:10pm | comments
Tina Amberboy addresses the commission

Officials from the Juvenile justice system in Texas are offering advice on how to improve the treatment of children who are in the Mississippi's Justice System. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports.

About a dozen members of the Mississippi Commission on Children's Justice listened to advice from two Texas officials about how to help children caught up in the justice system before they also end up in the prison system.

Tina Amberboy with the Texas Children's Commission says their focus is helping the whole family as well as keeping kids out of the foster care system.

"We have to do a better job of getting them placed with somebody, usually a relative, permanently and out of the system completely. And so there are a lot of efforts shifting toward that because we don't think every kid can go home but we do think there is a permanent placement for every kid," Amberboy said.

Texas has opened special Cluster Courts, which are dedicated solely to kids and families in the Justice system. The state also provides special advocates and schools for the children and makes their imprisoned family members an active part of the process.

Retired Texas Judge John Specia says their goal is to break the criminal cycle by helping kids early.

"What we are trying to do is break the cradle to prison railroad. Children who are having trouble in school, who are abused and neglected, if we can address the problems there before they start doing the criminal conduct, that is what we need to be doing," Specia said.

Retired Harrison County Judge Michael Ward believes the Texas recommendations, like cluster courts, can work but worries that Mississippi lacks the resources that Texas has.

"There are no answers. There are no resources. We are a very poor state, obviously. We don't have a lot of foster homes. We have a total dirth of social workers. We don't have anywhere near the numbers we need. They don't have anywhere near the training they need. And they don't get anywhere near the pay they need," Ward said.

The Mississippi Supreme Court established the Children's Commission last year. More hearings are expected as officials to look for ways to reform and improve Mississippi's child welfare system.

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Tina Amberboy addresses the commission


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