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Shirley Ragsdale wins Casey Medal.

Shirley Ragsdale was awarded the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism in Editorial Writing for her "tireless editorials [that] drew attention to South Dakota's troubled approach to handling juveniles under the jurisdiction of the state's Department of Corrections."

So summarized the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families. It continued: "Many newspapers would have written an editorial or two and let it drop. The Argus Leader pounded away again and again, letting its readers know clearly that the situation was not acceptable. The editorials were well reasoned, emotional, and dogged."

The background, as Ragsdale tells it:

On July 21, 1999, a 14-year-old female inmate at the South Dakota State Training School died of hyperthermia following a forced run. Until then, South Dakotans had paid little attention to the consequences of placing juvenile offenders under the control of the Department of Corrections. Nor were they aware of the treatment youngsters received at boys' and girls' boot camps. When it was discovered that the tragic death of Gina Score could have been averted by timely medical care, investigation of the system dug deeper.

The Argus Leader assumed a leadership role in reporting and uncovering wrongdoing. The editorial page waded in, demanding investigation, accountability, and change.

Those editorials helped motivate leaders to change the state juvenile corrections system. The girls' boot camp at Plankinton was closed. It has been replaced by the girls-only EXCEL program, which has no military components. Judges are sentencing 40% fewer youths to the South Dakota Corrections Department. The governor has appointed a juvenile corrections ombudsman to work with parents and sentenced children. The legislature formed a second corrections oversight committee. An intensive probation program has been revived, giving judges another sentencing tool. A respected Sioux Falls principal was hired to oversee education programs at Plankinton. The state has beefed up medical staffing and mental health programs at the State Training School. And South Dakotans are no longer as complacent about the treatment of children who may come under the supervision of the juvenile justice system.

One of Ragsdale's editorials follows.

NCEW member Shirley Ragsdale is editorial page editor for the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2001
Words:358
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