August 25, 2009 - Use of Force Reported at N.Y. Juvenile Detention Centers

Employees at four upstate New York juvenile detention centers have injured an "alarming number" of children through excessive force, U.S. investigators said.

The U.S. Justice Department investigation report, released Monday, focused its harshest criticism at workers' use of force, Newsday reported.

"Uncontrolled, unsafe applications of force, departing from generally accepted standards" were used on children for "anything from sneaking an extra cookie to initiating a fight," the report said, Newsday reported. "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."

Mentally ill juveniles make up nearly half the population at some facilities, the report said, but are often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed. Workers are not trained to handle their outbursts, the report said, the newspaper reported.

Investigations about excessive force were often inadequate, the report said, with subordinates investigating their own supervisors and evidence not documented, Newsday reported.

The results of the 20-month investigation could result in a federal takeover of the state's juvenile system -- which includes 31 residential centers, most upstate, Newsday said, if the state does not submit a plan to fix 22 problems cited by the report within 40 days.

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