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Juvenile Detention

April 22, 2001

* I suspect that the failure of Turning Point Academy ("Model Detention Camp Missing Key Ingredient," April 16) is directly related to the media frenzy to report juvenile crime ("Judging From the News, You'd Think They Were a Plague," Opinion, April 15). Sacramento legislators not only used the public misperceptions about the danger of teen crime to get elected, they also decided to act on them without any critical study.

There is a wealth of information from people who work in the juvenile justice system, and there are a number of excellent studies on which programs work and in what circumstances. Turning Point may be an excellent program, but is it the best way to treat first-time offenders of any crime? My years of experience working with juvenile delinquency programs have convinced me that programs that focus on the crime are not as effective as ones that view the crime as a symptom and look behind it to the life experiences and behavioral dynamics that led the minor to commit the crime. A "one size fits all" program for a particular penal code offense makes for a comfortable sentencing scheme but does little to rehabilitate.

ANNA A. ROBERTS

Los Angeles

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