Kid Row

Isolated, abused and lacking mental health care, do juvenile offenders leave state custody in worse shape than when they went in?

It's not fair to the kids or the staff, she says, to put them in this situation.

"The people who work there thought they were going to be a correctional officer and not a therapist."

But the problems with ADJC staff are much more serious than simply not being able to get kids to listen during a counseling session. Kids are physically, verbally and sexually abused. Teachers are getting hurt.

The entry-level corrections officers often aren't much older than the kids, the critics say, and not much more mature. They sneak R-rated movies into the facilities to placate the kids, take smoking breaks when they're supposed to be watching the juveniles and put themselves and others in danger by horsing around with kids they are supposed to be supervising.

Last August, according to an incident report obtained from ADJC, a teacher at Adobe Mountain handed out papers to her class, and one kid crumpled his up. She told him he wouldn't get another and he responded by calling her a "bum fucking bitch." She told him to leave the classroom, and turned her back. The boy hit her in the head with a tube sock containing a bar of soap and a two-inch rock.

The teacher was taken to the hospital, where she received 13 staples in her head for two lacerations, including one that was two inches long.

Such an incident could have been prevented if the teacher had not been left alone in her room without a corrections officer present, say other teachers who commented for this story. The federal court order does not specifically dictate that teachers be accompanied by an officer, but ADJC policy does.

And just last month, John, a boy serving time for 57 counts of child molestation, admitted to staff that he'd been accessing pornography on a computer in Adobe Mountain's maintenance office -- something that likely could have been prevented if the youth-staff ratio were followed, and staff were adequately trained, as dictated by the court.

Department records show ADJC's internal affairs department investigates several dozen cases each year; hundreds more complaints never make it through the grievance process designed to allow kids to air their own concerns.

Those that do are disturbing.

One day in July 1999, corrections officer Jesus Villa was playing around with a kid in the Destiny Cottage at Black Canyon School. The boy (Black Canyon housed boys at the time) sprayed him on the shirt with some window cleaner, so Villa sprayed the kid back -- in both eyes.

As the youth later recalled in an ADJC internal affairs report, "After I sprayed him, I went to the washroom and checked my hair and zits. I did that for about two minutes and then went to my room to tighten my sheets.

"As I was leaving my room, Villa shot me in the right eye with the cleaning fluid. My eye started burning immediately. I grabbed my right eye with my right hand and then Villa shot me in the left eye. He said, `Gotcha, gotcha.'

"I went to the sink and washed my eyes out. My eyes were blurry and burning. . . . I went to John C. Lincoln Hospital and then later taken to an eye doctor. I was told that my corneas were burned.

"Villa did say, `Sorry, sorry, I still love you.'"

ADJC kept Villa on the state payroll for more than a year -- until October 2000, when the officer cut a deal with county prosecutors and was put on probation.

Villa's no longer employed by ADJC.

But corrections officer Richard Woods still is, even thought he pleaded guilty to assault after he hit a 13-year-old kid in the face with a radio in 1998. Woods told investigators the boy threatened to stab him with a pencil, although the youth never made a physical move to do so. The boy wound up with a cut on the cheekbone and discoloration around the eye.

"I reached into my bag of options, and I chose the wrong option," Woods admitted to Maricopa County Superior Court officials, adding that he was not "an angry person," and if he was, he would have been more aggressive.

He served a year probation. ADJC punished him with a 40-hour suspension. Today he's on the job at Adobe Mountain School, working closely with kids.

Gary Andrews, an officer at Catalina Mountain School, was investigated in late 1998 for allegedly kicking a boy to wake him. He denied it -- until the pre-interview for the polygraph exam ADJC asked him to take.

A year and a half later, according to department records, Andrews was demoted. He received an annual pay cut of $280. He's still on the job, as well.

A corrections officer at Eagle Point encouraged a kid to assault another kid. An Adobe Mountain officer purposely slammed a bathroom door on a boy's hand, breaking it. A Catalina Mountain School officer handed out cigars to kids and encouraged them to fight one another in what's known as "street justice" or "room rushing." The officers no longer work for ADJC.

State files also document staff having sexual relations with youth. Some are male on male, as in the case of Sergio Granados, a food-service worker who in August 1999 reportedly grabbed the penis of a boy working in the cafeteria at Adobe Mountain School and then gave the boy gifts of clothing, a camera and money. Granados no longer works at Adobe; criminal charges are pending with the Maricopa County Attorney.

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