Outrage over juvenile detention report

August 25, 2009 9:37:23 PM PDT
There is outrage over an alarming federal report about the level of violence inside 4 youth detention centers in New York. Investigators say many of the inmates not only suffer serious injuries at the hands of employees, but are also denied adequate mental health treatment.

The Justice Department study is shocking not only for the numbing detail of abuse and neglect of teenagers left in the care of New York State juvenile facilities, but also because this study repeats the findings of studies that have been done for years.

Little has changed, according to this study. Advocates for the teenagers are now saying we don't need any more studies. We need reform.

At the Louis Gossett Jr. Residential Center in Lansing, as at facilities all over the state, teenagers were routinely beaten and abused and denied mental health care, according to the new federal report.

Most of the residents are African-American or Hispanic, so many are seeing this as a serious civil rights issue.

"It was a stunning and shocking assessment of what is going on in the state of New York when it comes to these children," Rev. Al Sharpton said.

The DOJ investigation says that workers in the facilities caused dozens of serious injuries to teenagers in their care because they routinely used force and restraint for even minor infractions.

In addition, juveniles failed to receive counseling.

Mia Lewis is an attorney for the ACLU who wrote a report that prompted the doj investigation.

"DOJ report described one girl in particular who is locked alone in a building in a room with her own urine and feces because the workers couldn't or wouldn't help her with her severe mental illness," Lewis explained. "The DOJ, in describing that instance, used the word abandoned."

At the Lansing facility in 2007, where just fifty girls live, the DOJ says restraint was used 698 times and that in that one year 123 girls were injured.

"There have been enough damning reports. There have been enough children with broken bones and bruises and worse. What we need is for the governor and the agencies and the legislature to work together to implement very, very drastic reforms," Lewis said.

The report details an incident in 2006 in which a 15 year old boy was pinned on the floor face first by two staffers at the Tryon Boys Center and handcuffed while he was down. That boy died. Since then, there have been some reforms implemented, but the ACLU says that unless a children's advocate is appointed, real reform is unlikely.


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