The Kids Are Not Alright

The Department of Juvenile Corrections is supposed to watch -- and rehabilitate -- troubled teens. But no one's watching the department.

"You've got the 900 worst kids in the state that no one else can handle," he says.

He's wrong. In 1994, Arizona voters approved a ballot measure that automatically bumps violent youth offenders to adult court. Since the law was implemented, ADJC's population has not only declined in numbers, but the kids are younger, and tend to be in for a series of petty offenses rather than heinous violent crimes.

That does not mean that Gaspar and his staff have an easy job. This can be a tough population. There are still some violent kids, including both hardcore and wannabe gang members. More significantly, the population includes the seriously mentally ill, kids with substance-abuse problems, kids who have been physically, verbally and sexually abused in their homes and on the streets.

Details

More stories in the Slammed special report.

Rehabilitation is more important than ever. And even though Gaspar insists he's all about rehabilitation, insiders say his philosophy is not reflected on the ground level at Adobe Mountain and ADJC's other facilities.

"The director is always telling us that he wants us to treat these kids as if they were our own," says one high-level supervisor, who has been with the agency for more than three years and has seen the decline in quality of care since the federal court order expired. "And the scary part is, if this is the way you treated your own kids, CPS would remove them."

Read more stories in the Slammed special report.

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