RED RIVER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - A state investigation into the Ware Youth Center uncovered multiple infractions after two boys, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, committed suicide at the juvenile detention center within 72 hours of each other in early February.
According to documents, Ware staff found both boys hanged themselves inside their respective rooms.
Through a public records request, KSLA Investigates learned a Department of Children and Family Services licensing supervisor found a total of 6 violations at Ware. Those included missed required sleeping checks and delays in initial mental health evaluations.
The Ware Youth Center in Red River Parish is licensed by the Department of Children and Family Services and does not fall under the Office of Juvenile Justice.
Juvenile detention center staff members are required to check on residents every 15 minutes while in sleeping rooms, “whether asleep or awake.”
However, on the nights of the suicides, February 7 and February 9, records reveal Ware staff members failed to check on the boys over the course of multiple 15 minute rounds when the suicides occurred, according to documents.
Juvenile detention centers are also required to give “a mental health assessment performed by a qualified mental health professional within 72 hours, unless the youth was assessed within 24 hours of admission.”
But, KSLA Investigates learned through records that Ware delayed mental health evaluations for 15 of the 29 files reviewed. According to the state, “the time these assessments were completed after the 72-hour allowance ranged from 1 day to 26 days late.”
Though, the documents do show the 17-year-old did receive a mental health check during the required 72-hour time frame upon his arrival at Ware. KSLA has not been able to confirm if the 13-year-old had received his mental check prior to his death.
DCFS also requires juvenile detention centers to “remove protrusions and other tie-off points from rooms.” Documents reveal the 17-year-old was in a room with a window that had a metal bar, with a 3/4 inch wide gap between the two, “an area large enough to tie off a sheet, blanket, pillow case, shirt, etc.”
According to records, Ware staff reported “all cells are constructed like this one, excluding the temporary holding cells, which have no windows."
Records also note that sleeping room doors to be “hung so that it opens outward, in the opposite direction of the youth living area.” To add, hinge pins of the doors are supposed to be “tamper proof and non-removable.”
However, documents show the holding cells, which are used as “temporary sleeping rooms do not have doors that open outwardly.” According to records, the 13-year-old was found inside a temporary holding cell which had hinges that open inwards.
View the the state findings on Ware in its entirety below:
After a deficiency is uncovered at a juvenile detention center, the state requires the facility to submit a plan of correction to prevent an incident from occurring in the future.
Below is Ware’s plan for corrective action after the suicides, according to documents:
- Right now, each detainee will be on a 5-minute room check, rather than the standard 15-minute rotation. Though, this is temporary. Ware staff is also considering changing to 10-minute room check rotations for residents who are not considered suicidal.
- Currently, all residents are in shorts and t-shirts while inside the facility, which prevents them from using large amounts of fabric for suicidal purposes. However, Ware staff note residents will return to the normal outfit, which consists of long sleeve shirts and pants, when deemed okay to do so.
- Ware staff removed thin pillow cases and sheets from residents’ rooms. In the interim, residents have been issued a thick wool blanket for cover. Ware staff note resident will be issued pillowcases and sheets when deemed okay to do so.
- All residents have been reassessed by a facility counselor as a result of the suicides.
- A suicide specialized social worker is being called in to meet with Ware staff for further education and provide any necessary counseling. Ware staff notes residents will also have access to this counselor upon request.
- Ware staff contacted the facility’s manufacturer regarding the construction of the door used by the 13-year-old for suicidal purposes to prevent this from happening again. However, the company has not returned Ware’s phone calls.
- Ware staff note looking into welding a piece of metal onto the top hinge of the door used by the 13-year-old, which would prevent fabric from entering the slanted space.
As well, at last check, documents from Ware reveal one of the staff members has not been back to work or returned phone calls since the suicides. A second worker has told colleagues they won’t be returning to Ware. A third worker is on paid-administrative leave pending the result of the investigation after the incidents.
View Ware’s full response to the state here:
Currently, the Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incidents. Sheriff Glen Edwards told KSLA Investigates the two suicides are not presently related. He added the case will be presented to the Red River Parish District Attorney.