My son was placed in an out-of-home youth facility for petty vandalism and his time there nearly ruined his life.

I know firsthand the damage these facilities can cause and how they fail to keep our communities safe. The last thing our state needs is another children’s institution.

There are more cost effective, proven alternatives that are far better for West Virginia’s young people.

West Virginia took critical steps to address our state’s broken juvenile justice system. In April, a set of reforms aimed at increasing public safety and eliminating taxpayer waste by keeping kids in their communities and out of costly detention centers was signed into law. These important reforms were lauded as a much-needed step to keep West Virginians safer while at the same time positively impacting West Virginia’s youth and their families.

But now, all that hard work is being threatened.

The Department of Health and Human Resources has fast-tracked the Dazzy Vance Mountain Resort, an unneeded 70-bed for–profit facility for youth with mental or behavioral issues to be built in the Earl Ray Industrial Park in Logan. The proposed facility will confine children as young as 4!

We can’t let that happen. Governor Tomblin: Don’t allow Dazzy Vance Mountain Resort to go forward!

It’s already been proven by that facilities like Dazzy Vance aren’t working for West Virginia. The bipartisan Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice was unanimous in its findings that West Virginia was wasting taxpayer money by sending lower-level juvenile offenders to centers like Dazzy Vance at a staggering $100,000 or more per child per year. Dazzy Vance’s costs will be even higher – costing taxpayers $182,500 per child per year. Even worse, the Task Force found that youth are unnecessarily spending more time in these kinds of facilities than ever before.

I know firsthand just how broken these facilities are because my own son was in one.

After my son violated probation by spray painting a building, he was taken from his community and placed in a West Virginia detention center. After being given medication that made him violent, he was locked in solitary confinement and I, his mother, wasn’t allowed to make decisions regarding his medical treatment. He was later transferred to another facility where he spent every day locked down in his cell. Not only are these methods extreme, but they haven’t been proven to keep kids out of trouble long-term.

West Virginia can’t keep wasting money on solutions that don’t work. Community-based alternatives that keep kids with their families and provide intensive treatment services have been proven to be more effective at keeping kids out of the system and communities safe. These programs are a fraction of the cost in comparison to housing youth in facilities like the proposed Dazzy Vance Mountain Resort.

Elaine Turner, of Ridgeview, is a mother and nurse.