Monday, August 24, 2009

DOJ report cites abuse at New York State juvenile detention centers

A nearly 2-year investigation by the Department of Justice into New York's juvenile residential centers may result in a takeover of the states youth detention system if problems are not addressed. The report revealed that "children at four juvenile detention centers were so severely abused by workers that it constituted a violation of their constitutional rights".

Workers at four locations routinely used physical force to restrain residents under 16 years of age against the rules, with serious resultant injuries such as broken teeth and bones, for infractions that were as minor as seeking an extra cookie, refusing to stop laughing and glaring at a staff member.

Officials at the centers also routinely failed to follow state rules requiring that instances in which force is used be reviewed after the fact. In some cases, the same staff member involved in an episode conducted the review. And even when a review determined that excessive force had been used, the staff members responsible sometimes faced no punishment.

The report also found that state officials failed to provide youths in detention with adequate counseling and mental health treatment, something the vast majority of residents require. Three-quarters of residents enter New York’s juvenile justice system with drug or alcohol problems, more than half have diagnosed psychological problems and a third have developmental disabilities, according to figures published by Office of Children and Family Services.

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