The State of Missouri was cited as a role model in a New York Times editorial, published on January 5th. The editorial bemoaned the fact that the New York State Juvenile Justice system is broken beyond repair. “A report by a task force appointed by Gov. David Paterson describes a failing system that damages young people, fails to curb recidivism and eats up millions of tax dollars.” Obviously, that was not the good part.
The editorial continued: “Mr. Paterson’s task force was rightly impressed with Missouri’s juvenile justice system. It has adopted smaller regional facilities that focus on rehabilitation and house troubled youths as close to home as possible in order to involve parents and community groups in the therapeutic process. Missouri also has cut recidivism rates by smoothing re-entry and helping young people with drug treatment, education or job placement".
Let us all take great pride in national recognition for our state and the dedicated public servants who make it happen. We should also remember that reforming and improving the way state government serves the people can also save tax dollars - as it did in this instance. Our law makers need to think creatively and not reflexively. Improving the way we do things always comes with an up-front cost. We should not shy away from reform because of its cost today. We must ask: What will the cost be tomorrow if we do not change? It is nice to know that the New York Times is paying attention to Missouri.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.