Instead of continuing military-style discipline as the primary policy to correct errant youth under age 18, the Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center in Georgetown went rogue.
The traditional correctional and military-style discipline didn’t result in lasting change for most of these juveniles.
Matt Smith, assistant executive director and mental health services director for Wilco’s Juvenile Services, explained why.
From 1995 to 1997, a CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study of 17,00 participants in the Kaiser Permanente Health Plan in California confirmed through scientific evidence that traumatic experiences in the first 18 years of life lead to physical, mental and behavioral problems later in life.
The 10 ACEs identified in the study included emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Others involved witnessing a mother treated violently, substance abuse or mental illness in the household, parental separation or divorce, or an incarcerated household member.
Emotional and physical neglect were also identified ACEs.
Two thirds of the study participants showed an ACE score of at least one, and 87 percent had more than one.
Recent neuroscience research revealed through brain scans the developmental difference between brains that had experienced toxic stress in youth and those who had experienced only one or two ACEs.
ACEs can profoundly harm children’s developing brains. Experiences that cause stress chemicals to be continuously produced greatly impact development of brain cells and connections among cells.