Flipping the script on juvenile detention

Paul Hancock, Hannah Wilkinson, and Victor Chavez in front of The Loft in St. Johns, Arizona. Photo by Amy Martin.

In the 1980s, local governments across America braced — and built — for an expected surge in juvenile “super-predators.” But the surge never came, and many communities were left with expensive, nearly empty buildings that cost millions to maintain.

For the youth who were detained in them, the facilities often served as introductions to a harsh and punitive criminal justice system.

In a half-hour episode for the “70 Million” podcast and a companion article in High Country News, Homelands producer Ruxandra Guidi takes us to rural St. Johns, Arizona, where county officials have transformed their local detention center into a place where teens can play pool, make music, and receive mentoring instead of going to jail.

The success of The Loft Legacy Teen Center is leading many across the state to rethink local government’s approach to youth who come into contact with the law enforcement system.