Getting arrested for stealing cars after his 16th birthday may be the best thing that ever happened to Terrence Barkley.
It got him out of gangs and headed to college.
While in one of Missouri’s juvenile facilities, Barkley became editor of its student newspaper, captain of the football team and made the honor roll.
“I wanted something different for myself or I’d end up in Kansas City doing nothing. I knew I could do something,” said Barkley, who is the first in his family to go to college.
Now he’s a sophomore studying criminal justice at the University of Central Missouri.
Barkley wasn’t scared straight. He wasn’t packed away in a crowded facility with steel bars and razor wire. He wasn’t under the constant guard of uniformed officers with billy clubs or locked down with hundreds of other juveniles.
Instead, he was sent to Waverly Regional Youth Center, one of Missouri’s 32 residential facilities where he wore his jeans and T-shirts. He slept in his own bunk bed in a room that looks more like a dorm than a jail cell. He recieved counseling and schooling.
While America’s juvenile system is often criticized for corruption and abuse, Missouri state officials say its juvenile justice solution has saved billions of dollars and reduced the number of repeat offenders. In the last four decades, the state has transformed its juvenile system into one that defies the traditional prison model.
Known as the Missouri model, the program focuses on therapy, comfortable living conditions and an emphasis on job training and education. Missouri’s facilities are serving thousands of young offenders, and they are receiving national acclaim.