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DOJ Report - NYS OCFS Facilities

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I'm surprised that the Department of Justice report of the four OCFS Facilities in New York State didn't get any play on this website.  But now would be as good a time as any to rectify that.  The short explanation is that Governor Pataki came in and put a former prison warden over our juvenile justice system, 12 years of horrific abuses ensued, a new commissioner has come in and tried to clean up the mess, but the employee unions have gotten used to enjoying free rein over their charges.  You want to talk about racist, how about a system that sends black and Latino kids hundreds of miles away from home to pay for the salaries of uneducated white rural folk.

You can read the report here: ... 4-2009.pdf

From Blombrowski's link to an August 2009 report of the four OCFS Facilities in New York State(It’s very eye opening)

Re: Investigation of the Lansing Residential Center, Louis Gossett, Jr.Residential Center, Tryon Residential Center, and Tryon Girls Center

--- Quote ---Dear Governor Paterson:
I write to report the findings of the Civil Rights Division’s investigation ofconditions at four Office of Children and Family Services (“OCFS”) facilities: Lansing Residential Center (“Lansing”), Louis Gossett, Jr. Residential Center(“Gossett”), Tryon Residential Center (“Tryon Boys”), and Tryon Girls ResidentialCenter (“Tryon Girls”). On December 14, 2007, we notified you of our intent toconduct an investigation of the juvenile facilities pursuant to the Civil Rights ofInstitutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997 (“CRIPA”), and the Violent CrimeControl and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141 (“Section 14141”). We informed you that our investigation would focus on whether youth were adequatelyprotected from harm, and would specifically address allegations of sexualmisconduct and unreasonable use of restraints. At the conclusion of our first set of tours, we notified you that we would be expanding the scope of our investigation toinclude mental health care at each of the four facilities.
On June 2-5, June 30-July 3, November 12-14, and November 24-26, 2008,we conducted on-site inspections of the facilities. On our first set of tours, we were accompanied by expert consultants in protection from harm and use of force, and onour second set we were accompanied by expert consultants in mental health care. Before, during, and after our tours, we reviewed an extensive number of documentsincluding policies and procedures, incident reports, medical and psychology records,unit logs, and training materials. Additionally, we interviewed administrators, professionals, staff, and youth. We observed the youth in a variety of settings,including on their living units, while dining, in classrooms, and during recreation.Consistent with our commitment to provide technical assistance and conduct atransparent investigation, we conducted exit conferences upon the conclusion of
- 2 each
set of tours, during which our expert consultants conveyed their initialimpressions and concerns.
We thank the staff from OCFS and each of the facilities for their helpful andprofessional conduct throughout the course of the investigation. We received complete cooperation and appreciate their receptiveness to our consultants’ on-siterecommendations. Attorneys and staff assisted our investigation by providing uswith unfettered access to records and personnel, and responding to all of ourrequests in a transparent and forthcoming manner. We have every reason tobelieve that OCFS and facility administrators are committed to remedyingdeficiencies at the facilities.
Consistent with our statutory obligation under CRIPA, we set forth below thefindings of our investigation, the facts supporting them, and the minimum remedialsteps that are necessary to address the deficiencies we have identified. As described below, we conclude that the conditions at Lansing, Gossett, Tryon Boys, and TryonGirls violate constitutional standards in the areas of protection from harm andmental health care.
In the course of our investigation, we also reviewed allegations of custodialsexual misconduct. We find no current systemic constitutional deficiencies in this area. In the wake of custodial sexual misconduct charges at the facilities, OCFShas taken multiple steps, including but not limited to installing video cameras,increased staff accountability, and additional training for staff in order to safeguardyouth at the facilities. We commend OCFS for the steps it has taken and encourageit to continue its work to minimize such risks and ensure youth safety.
--- End quote ---
That's not the all of it. August 2009 report of the four OCFS Facilities in New York State for more details

The New York Times
4 Youth Prisons in New York Used Excessive Force
Published: August 24, 2009

Excessive physical force was routinely used to discipline children at several juvenile prisons in New York, resulting in broken bones, shattered teeth, concussions and dozens of other serious injuries over a period of less than two years, a federal investigation has found.

A report by the United States Department of Justice highlighted abuses at four juvenile residential centers and raised the possibility of a federal takeover of the state's entire youth prison system if the problems were not quickly addressed.

The report, made public on Monday, came 18 months into a major effort by state officials to overhaul New York's troubled juvenile prison system, which houses children convicted of criminal acts, from truancy to murder, who are too young to serve in adult jails and prisons.

Investigators found that physical force was often the first response to any act of insubordination by residents, who are all under 16, despite rules allowing force only as a last resort.

"Staff at the facilities routinely used uncontrolled, unsafe applications of force, departing from generally accepted standards," said the report, which was given to Gov. David A. Paterson on Aug. 14.

"Anything from sneaking an extra cookie to initiating a fistfight may result in a full prone restraint with handcuffs," the report said. "This one-size-fits-all approach has, not surprisingly, led to an alarming number of serious injuries to youth, including concussions, broken or knocked-out teeth, and spiral fractures" (bone fractures caused by twisting).

In a statement issued on Monday, Gladys Carrión, the commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, which oversees the juvenile prisons, said that the administration had inherited a youth justice system "rife with substantial systemic problems" but acknowledged that efforts to overhaul it had so far fallen short.

"We have made great strides," said Ms. Carrión, "but much more still needs to be done."

In one case described in the report, a youth was forcibly restrained and handcuffed after refusing to stop laughing when ordered to; the youth sustained a cut lip and injuries to the wrists and elbows. Workers forced one boy, who had glared at a staff member, into a sitting position and secured his arms behind his back with such force that his collarbone was broken.

Another youth was restrained eight times in three months despite signs that she might have been contemplating suicide. "In nearly every one of the eight incidents," the report found, "the youth was engaged in behaviors such as head banging, putting paper clips in her mouth, tying a string around her neck, etc."

The four centers cited in the report are the Lansing Residential Center and the Louis Gossett Jr. Residential Center in Lansing, and two residences, one for boys and one for girls, at Tryon Residential Center in Johnstown.

Officials at the centers also routinely failed to follow state rules requiring reviews whenever force is used, the report said. In some cases, the same staff member involved in an episode conducted the review of it. And even when a review determined that excessive force had been used, the staff members responsible sometimes faced no punishment.

In one case, a youth counselor with a documented record of using excessive force was recommended for firing after throwing a youth to the ground with such force that stitches were required on the youth's chin. But after the counselor's union intervened, the punishment was downgraded to a letter of reprimand, an $800 fine and a two-week suspension that was itself suspended.

The federal inquiry began in December 2007 following a spate of incidents at some of the 28 state-run juvenile residential centers, which house about 1,000 youths.

In November 2006, an emotionally disturbed teenager, Darryl Thompson, 15, died after two employees at the Tryon center pinned him down on the ground. The death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict the workers. The boy's mother is suing the state.

During the same period, a separate joint investigation by the state inspector general and the Tompkins County district attorney found that the independent ombudsman's office charged with overseeing youth prison centers had virtually ceased to function. In a report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union issued in September 2006, New York's youth residential centers were rated among the worst in the world.

Those scandals spurred a drive within Ms. Carrión's department to overhaul the system. It reconstituted the ombudsman's office and issued clearer policies on the use of physical force, leading to a sharp drop in instances where restraints were applied.

Under the overhaul, officials have also sought to close underused centers and redirect resources to counseling and other services, though they have faced fierce resistance from public employees' unions and their allies in the Legislature. A task force appointed last year by Mr. Paterson is set to issue further recommendations by the end of this year.

"The problem is the unions and some of the staff they represent," said Mishi Faruquee, director of Youth Justice Programs at the Children's Defense Fund-New York, and a member of the task force. "They are very entrenched in the way they do things and the way they have been trained to do their jobs," she said. "They have been very resistant to changing the policy on the use of force."

In a statement, Stephen A. Madarasz, director of communications for the Civil Service Employees Union, which represents many of the workers at the centers, said union officials had not had an opportunity to review the full report.

The federal report revealed that despite efforts to overhaul the system, problems at some of the centers remained so severe that residents' constitutional rights were being violated. Under federal law, New York has 49 days to respond with a plan of action to comply with the report's recommendations.

If the state fails to do so, the Justice Department can initiate a lawsuit that could result in a federal takeover of the state's juvenile prison system.

Even as the four centers singled out in the report relied excessively on physical force, federal investigators found, they failed to provide youths with adequate counseling and mental health treatment, something the vast majority of residents require. Three-quarters of children entering New York's youth justice system have 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.

"The majority of psychiatric evaluations at the four facilities did not come close to meeting" professional standards, investigators determined, and "typically lacked basic, necessary information."

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

From the above article, "4 Youth Prisons in New York Used Excessive Force":

--- Quote ---The federal inquiry began in December 2007 following a spate of incidents at some of the 28 state-run juvenile residential centers, which house about 1,000 youths.

In November 2006, an emotionally disturbed teenager, Darryl Thompson, 15, died after two employees at the Tryon center pinned him down on the ground. The death was ruled a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict the workers. The boy's mother is suing the state.
--- End quote ---
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Metro Briefing | New York: Johnstown: Teenager's Death Ruled A Homicide
Published: February 21, 2007

The death of a Bronx teenager in November who had been restrained at a state juvenile detention center has been ruled a homicide, the Fulton County district attorney said yesterday. The teenager, Darryl Thompson, 15, was restrained by two staff members at the Tryon Residential Center for Boys in Johnstown on Nov. 18, said Louise K. Sira, the district attorney. Shortly after being handcuffed, he stopped breathing and later died at St. Mary's Hospital in Amsterdam, she said. Ms. Sira said the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, possibly linked to a pre-existing heart abnormality and spurred by the stress of the conflict. She said that the ruling did not indicate ''use of excessive force or negligence'' and that the matter would be reviewed by a grand jury. CASSI FELDMAN

Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Juvenile Abuse in New York State Residential Centers
Civil Liberties Article by Natalia M. Clavijo December 14, 2009


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