Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ductape on your mouth

Today I will share with you a recent article my friend Marc just sent, about his work with the Wyoming Kids Alliance, currently doing a documentary with grant funds from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, on juvenile justice in Wyoming.

I asked Marc if he ever feels like he's going to always be banging his head against the wall in this state? Seriously, I do.

Simpson participates, Skoric rejects group

By Kristen Inbody

Not everyone in Park County has been as willing as former senator Al Simpson to participate in a documentary project on juvenile justice reform in Wyoming.

Filmmaker Marc Homer said Bryan Skoric - whom he termed a “somewhat recalcitrant county attorney” - declined participation in the film.

Homer acknowledged he and the Park County attorney have a different perspective on the issue.

“It’s interesting to understand the 360-degree view and someone I don’t agree with may have valid points I can learn from, and to learn what a county attorney might face in your town,” Homer said.

Skoric said it was Homer who denied his interview offer, or at least his terms.

“I told him I would happily sit for an interview at any time of his choosing, but I wanted a statement on Casey Foundation letterhead that my interview would play unedited in its entirely,” Skoric said.

Homer’s project doesn’t even meet the definition of a documentary, Skoric said.

“I don’t believe he’s doing a documentary; it’s an authoritative instructive statement of evidence, and he’s incapable of doing that,” Skoric said. “He’s capable of producing a one-sided story capable of promoting his organization.”

The Casey Foundation, based in Maryland, is “one-sided” and advocates compliance with the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act.

The law attempts to keep juveniles out of jail by requiring that law enforcement officials detain them away from adult offenders, incarcerate them for no more than six hours and keep status offenders (those committing crimes such as drinking or smoking underage) out of jail completely.

“Wyoming decided long ago we’re not going to come into compliance,” Skoric said. The foundation wants to “go along with what our Legislature said we don’t want, which is a one-sized fits all approach.”

Wyoming is capable of taking care of the children of the state without the $600,000 compliance would bring from the federal government, Skoric said.

“Their programs don’t work,” he said.

Wyoming prosecutors and sheriffs join him in disputing Homer’s claims about the state of juvenile justice, he said.

“It’s a liberal movement out there to change how Wyoming does business,” Skoric said. “Once the Legislature decides they want to do something different, we’ll follow that.”

The documentary is not about helping children but about helping Homer himself, Skoric said.

“Mr. Homer survives off grant money and grant funded positions,” he said.

“If he wants to talk about children and facts, I’ll happily sit down,” he said.

But taking snippets from an interview wouldn’t work for him, Skoric said.

Skoric said he researched the project, citing a newspaper story and video showing the filmmaker’s bias.

“They’ve already formulated their opinions on Wyoming systems, and I don’t see how that can be a documentary.”

A documentary is based on fact, but Homer has “already made up his mind. He’s gearing it toward what the Casey Foundation wants,” Skoric said.

In April, the Park County commissioners rejected a $63,000 grant on Skoric’s advice. Skoric said at the time the county couldn’t take money for actions it wasn’t willing to take, as outlined in the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act.

Skoric instead solicited more money from the city and county to pay for the two juvenile probation officers handling cases from municipal and circuit courts.

Homer said the grant “wasn’t a heavy-handed move,” but “was offering the opportunity to coalesce around this issue and work in a productive way to help resolve some of the problems.

“It’s disappointing he decided to turn down the money,” Homer added, saying Park County people can determine the direction of the county at the ballot box.

“I hope if there are future initiatives the leadership in Cody would work toward resolving some of the problems we have with juvenile justice,” he said. “To turn a blind eye and say there’s no problem is a mistake.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

from the Cody Enterprise,


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