It seems only common sense not to house adult criminals in the same jails or prisons with younger offenders. By that standard, West Virginia's juvenile detention system is entirely lacking in common sense.
More than one-fourth of the criminals housed in state juvenile detention facilities are 18 or older. That needs to change.
State juvenile "corrections" facilities have been in the news for many months, because some of their inmates have been mistreated. So egregious was the situation that a judge ordered the state to close the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem. Then, earlier this month, the same judge ordered that juveniles at the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, on the same campus as the other facility for youths, be relocated.
Though part of the judge's concern focuses on how corrections officers treat youthful offenders, some of it stems from crimes committed against them by over-18 inmates.
Sixty-five of the 256 inmates in state juvenile detention centers are 18 or older, it has been reported. Of that number, 59 of the older inmates are men.
At one point, the Salem facility housed more adults than juveniles, a Division of Juvenile Services official said.
That is absurd - and dangerously so. But in West Virginia, the law not only allows it but in some cases requires it.
In some situations, adults housed in juvenile detention facilities can be sent to adult prisons for committing crimes against youngsters. Once those sentences are completed, they can be sent back to the juvenile centers. How crazy is that?
Though corrections officers attempt to keep the adult detainees from preying on their younger neighbors, that sometimes is not possible. Clearly, offenders in the two age groups should not be housed near each other.
That is not to say younger adult offenders should be sent straight to adult prisons. It may be possible to rehabilitate some of them - and young adults thrown in with older, more hardened criminals may themselves be victims of predators.
State legislators should review laws regulating juvenile and adult detention facilities. Plainly, young adults should not be housed with juveniles. If that change is not accomplished voluntarily, the courts may have to step in and order that it be done.