Pennsylvania has launched a pilot program to identify young offenders who are emotionally unstable and at risk for violence. From WHYY’s Behavioral Health desk, Taunya English reports.
Pennsylvania has launched a pilot program to identify young offenders who are emotionally unstable and at risk for violence.
From WHYY’s Behavioral Health desk, Taunya English reports.
Researcher Alan Tezak says most juvenile detention centers in Pennsylvania use a screening questionnaire to check on the mental health of child inmates.
Tezak: That’s sort of like a thermometer that they take of a kid to see if there is some level of concern.
But Tezak says the vast majority of kids who come in contact with the criminal justice system don’t end up in juvenile detention and don’t get the mental health check.
Tezak’s program is an effort to intervene early by providing the questionnaire to kids who avoid detention but are sentenced to probation. Among other questions, the screening tool asks kids about anxious, angry or suicidal thoughts.
Tezak: We are hopeful that by identifying issues in kids, behavioral health issues, as well as a whole host of other issues in kids earlier what we will be able to do is reduce violence and their propensity to commit violent acts.
The year-old program, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, is getting attention now because the suspect in the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer this week had a criminal record that reaches into early childhood.
Tezak says the research could help kids in need and uncover the Pennsylvania counties that need more resources to help young offenders.
For WHYY news, I’m Taunya English