An investigation released on March 2 paints a harrowing picture of violence and abuse by the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections, also known as DYC (video below).
The Colorado Child Safety Coalition's report said that many young people who were held in DYC facilities were hit by the staff with "knee strikes," subjected to pain-compliance actions, placed in full-body straitjackets and put in small isolation rooms for hours, notes The Denver Post.
The report said that in this "culture of violence," the staff members "routinely use physical force and pain to control young people."
Youngsters were reportedly restrained 3,611 times -- during a 13-month period ending Jan. 31 -- by means of straitjackets, handcuffs, or shackles, which are part of the "WRAP" protocol.
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The report found that state employees hit or put pressure on "sensitive parts of the child’s body to purposely cause pain and gain compliance."
The Colorado Child Safety Coalition said the DYC heaps torment on young people who have previously suffered abuse and neglect.
DYC director Anders Jacobson told The Denver Post that the report was "inflammatory," and said that steps are already being taken to reduce the isolation and use of force on young people.
The report was based on information from the DYC, medical and corrections staff, videos and interviews with 21 young former inmates.
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Jacobson insisted the "WRAP" protocol was only used in emergency situations, when an employee or young person is facing danger, or when the employees have already attempted "verbal deescalation."
"The need for staff is key," Jacobson added. "We have been very understaffed compared to others nationally."
Rebecca Wallace, co-author of the report and a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado countered: "They need treatment, not punishment. These kids, and the staff who care for them, are in crisis. They need a culture change in DYC, and they need it now."
"I think that essentially we have the same goal," Jacobson insisted. "That goal is to provide the No. 1 best youth corrections system in the country."
Disability Law Colorado, which is part of the Colorado Child Safety Coalition, released a video of a young man, Xavier Long, who recalled how he was supposed to receive residential treatment for his mental health issues at the Mount View Youth Services Center (pictured above), but was exposed to violence instead.
Long said that the staff used verbal degradation, such as "bitch," with young people.
He recalled there were "several restraints a day," and how the "fed up" staff was ready to go "hands on" over small issues.
Long said he was placed in the "WRAP" on "several occasions." He said the straightjackets "constrict your body a lot, so it makes breathing really hard ... it's almost like a torture device."
Long stated that the DYC staff put him in restraints, and punched him while they were in an area of the facility that was not covered by surveillance cameras.