Health secretary wrote 1991 research memo on criminal punishment for juvenile offenders: report

Health secretary wrote 1991 research memo on criminal punishment for juvenile offenders: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE's health secretary once wrote that juvenile offenders need punishment in criminal court rather than treatment, according to a memo obtained by The Guardian.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wrote the memo in 1991 for a senior attorney while a research associate at a private firm.

“Special juvenile courts were created in late 19th century with [the] idea that [a] juvenile was a salvageable human who needed treatment rather than punishment in criminal court,” Azar wrote, citing a report, according to The Guardian. “We see today that that is not the case.”


Azar wrote the memo for Richard Willard, a conservative lawyer who once worked in the Reagan administration.

The memo supported more privately run prisons to handle overcrowding, according to The Guardian.

An HHS spokesperson told The Guardian the memo says nothing about Azar's "personal opinions or views."

“This is a ridiculous insinuation even by the standards of the Guardian," said Caitlin Oakley. "He was a summer associate; he was tasked with research for someone else’s project for someone else’s purposes.”

Oakley further elaborated in a statement to The Hill: “The very headline and subtitle of this Guardian story are categorically false. Secretary Azar did not ‘argue’ anything or ‘reject any notion,’ he researched this topic at the instruction of a senior partner more than 27 years ago."

She also criticized the article's comparison between the memo and the administration's short-lived changes to the Unaccompanied Alien Children program, which resulted in the separation of hundreds of migrant children and families. 

"The Guardian’s attempt to connect a decades-old summer research assignment to the Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) program is farcical. The mission of the UAC program is based on child welfare best practices and HHS is required by law to release UAC to appropriate sponsors as expeditiously as possible while maintaining important child welfare standards," Oakley said.

"To insinuate otherwise is an intentional misrepresentation of fact. The article further ignores the Washington Post and Poltifact fact checking on additional false claims regarding the secretary’s comments on the UAC program. Put simply, this article is nothing but a smear attempt.” 

Legal experts told The Guardian it appears that Azar was instructed to write the memo to back up an argument made by his boss.

“It’s fairly clear that Azar was given a thesis in quest for a basis and then tasked with backfilling that thesis with any factual support he could muster,” Ramzi Kassem, a professor at CUNY School of Law, told The Guardian.