Teen holds a 'shank' up to another teen's neck in the Juvenile Justice Center.
[Mobile users may watch the exclusive investigation HERE]
On Monday, 19 Action News took you inside a place that is supposed to help troubled teens turn their lives around.
An exclusive investigation revealed another story.
Paul Orlousky reports on the disturbing, violent and out-of-control county detention center.
The new Juvenile Justice Center cost taxpayers $189 million dollars. It is filled with palatial appointments for judges, ornate designs and a detention center where juveniles are held that is simply out of control. Attacks on staff, on each other and destruction of property -- and we've got the video to prove it.
"You gain points by committing assaults in the detention center and as you gain points, you gain rank," said Judge Kristen Sweeney.
Judge Sweeney believes trouble at the detention center begins with the gang "The Heartless Felons," which encourages violence.
"Vandalism will get you a point. I think assaulting another resident will get you a point or two. Assaulting a detention officer is two or three points and the higher up you go the more rank you get in the gang," explained Judge Kristen Sweeney.
One video shows a young man with a homemade shank snatch another kid. He holds him hostage with the weapon at his throat, threatening to use it. Guards approach, try to talk him down as policy mandates. Finally, they disarm him. The bottom line, several times guards have been disciplined for using force with the attacker. The incidents are reviewed by the Sheriff's Department.
"In most cases, they've found no wrongdoing yet still people are still being disciplined. Up to termination?" asked Reporter Orlousky.
"Mostly termination," replied retired guard, Ed Reynolds.
Fight scenes are commonplace. A fight broke out in one dayroom, taking all the guards attention as young men run wild. In another room another fight. The one-on-one fight soon became a two, three and four-on-one beating of a juvenile. He is kicked in the head, the crotch and ribs with kid after kid jumping in and taking turns while he is held down. Guards are so outnumbered in the other room that this fight went on for minutes.
In another video we see a female staff member walking toward another who is escorting a young man. He charges, she tries to stave him off to no avail. In the end, she is hospitalized and on injury leave for more than a year.
Reynolds believes court rules handcuff guards.
"We went from one extreme to another and we have to find some kind of medium there that works for everybody. Keeps the kids safe but is not abusive," said Reynolds. "I mean, it's a really hard situation to figure out how to balance the kids and the staffs needs."
In the intake area, a young man refuses to cooperate. Guards keep their hands off him, talking him down. As he began to follow their commands, he attacked a manager.
"What's the consequences?" asked Reporter Orlousky.
"Nothing," answered Reynolds.
There is also criminal damage. Another video shows water gushing from a sprinkler head that has been intentionally damaged. Water floods the floor for more than a half hour, forcing staff to use furniture as a makeshift dam to protect other areas.
Speaking of furniture, as juveniles got agitated in another video they begin to turn furniture over, eventually using it to block the door to the dayroom to slow the advance of the guards who are marshalling outside.
"I don't know what I would do. They do need better ways of interacting with the kids once the fists start flying, it's true," Reynolds said.
As staff tries to enter chairs go flying, they had to climb over the pile of furniture, a compromising position to be put in when you are outnumbered.
The overriding question in all of this is why. It is something difficult for most everyone to understand and with the restrictions put on staff, impossible for them to change.
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Sunday, February 18 2018 9:00 AM EST2018-02-18 14:00:44 GMT
Sunday, February 18 2018 5:04 PM EST2018-02-18 22:04:10 GMT
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