Juvenile Justice Center reform a must before more violence erupts (Editorial)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - What happens when you take unruly teens, many with violent criminal records, and pack them in an already crowded, poorly supervised facility? You get exactly what happened Jan. 8 at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center: a flat-out riot.

After SWAT moved in and the dust settled, damage was estimated at a mind boggling $200,000. But should anyone be surprised?

A study commissioned by the county sheriff says the facility was woefully understaffed, and those who do work there are ill-trained to handle an uprising like the one last month.

For several years now, we've been reporting on a growing gang presence in the juvie center. Many of its residents are hardened criminals with rap sheets for aggravated robbery, carjacking and even murder -- that's not the misguided youths that the facility was intended for.

Maybe the January riot has served as a wake-up call. The center's superintendent announced his retirement and there's talk of major reforms. One that certainly warrants consideration: putting control of the juvenile center in the hands of the sheriff.

The best that can be said is that no one was seriously hurt -- this time. Changes to the juvenile center must come quickly, before someone is.

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