Locked up and forgotten. State struggles to manage youth lockups | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Locked up and forgotten. State struggles to manage youth lockups

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 12:36 PM

click to enlarge BAREFOOT: Youth outside the state's juvenile lockup in Dermott on a cold day this week. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • BAREFOOT: Youth outside the state's juvenile lockup in Dermott on a cold day this week.

Take a trip into the world of an Arkansas juvenile lockup — unsafe and unsanitary where such basics as soap are in short supply.

It's the work of Lindsey Millar for the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network and will appear this week in the Arkansas Times as well. He writes:

Nine current and former workers at the juvenile facilities, in Dermott, told the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network that youths regularly lacked sufficient hygiene supplies, including soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and laundry detergent throughout 2017. Air-conditioning only worked sporadically in multiple dorms throughout the summer, when the outdoor temperature often approached 100 degrees. The heating units in multiple dorms did not function for weeks in the winter, when temperatures dipped below freezing. During the fall and winter, until Jan. 27, the youngest teenagers confined at the facilities did not have coats.

Current and former staffers also said teenagers frequently were not adequately supervised. Regularly in 2017, the number of staff did not meet the American Correctional Association standard of one direct care staff member to eight youths. On the many days the facilities were understaffed last year, one teenager raped another, several youths attempted suicide and others attempted escape.
State officials dispute some specifics, but concede at least some things "have slipped through the cracks." It is working to right management of the facilities, taken over by the state a year ago and slated eventually for another try at private operation.

It is a sad and sometimes harrowing tale of the state's care of children.

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