Suicidal Tendencies: The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections Is a Bloody Mess

The girl has a history of pulling out chunks of her own hair and drawing on the walls with her feces and blood, then wiping herself with pages she's ripped from a Bible. And she's a cutter. The scars from her self-abuse are visible on her arms and legs.

The details of juvenile cases aren't public, but according to someone close to her, she threatened family members and then a judge; that's how she ended up at the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

She clearly requires constant supervision, but on September 21, staff at the ADJC's Black Canyon facility in Phoenix left the girl alone in a bathroom for at least eight minutes. When a guard finally asked what was taking so long, the girl replied that she was constipated. She emerged from the stall covered in blood and deep cuts she'd made on both arms with a piece of a broken light bulb, then ran through the grounds "with blood squirting everywhere," according to the agency's internal documents.

New Times obtained copies of photos of the girl who cut herself on September 21.
New Times obtained copies of photos of the girl who cut herself on September 21.

Details

See: the other stories in the Lost Kids series: Saving Alex and Losing Erica.

"It was like CSI meets like a horror movie," one eyewitness tells New Times, adding that some of the cuts "were so bad, to where you could almost see the meat in them."

The girl was handcuffed and taken to a local hospital, where she refused treatment. On the way back to the agency, she bit a staff member who tried to make her wear a seatbelt.

It took two days to clean up the mess in the bathroom.

• On February 14, a boy at the Adobe Mountain facility in Phoenix was found in his room unconscious with a pair of pants tied around his neck. Staff loosened the pants, and the boy gasped for air; later, he admitted he'd had a Valentine's Day fight on the phone with his girlfriend before trying to kill himself.

• On April 3, staff at Black Canyon noticed a girl lying on the floor; another kid admitted she knew the girl was trying to choke herself. A guard cut a ripped T-shirt from around the neck of the girl, who had covered the evidence with a towel after taking a shower.

• On April 4, a boy at the Catalina facility in Tucson jammed his door shut, and it was only when another kid begged a guard to check on him that any adult noticed that the boy was turning red and then blue, with a towel wrapped around his feet and neck to choke himself. Staff eventually kicked down the door and cut the towel off with a knife.

The guards seemed surprised, even though it had been discovered earlier that day that the boy was already making a rope; he was angry that he couldn't make a phone call when he wanted to.

• On May 17, a boy at Adobe Mountain claimed he fell and hit his head, causing a bloody injury, but another kid admitted to guards that the boy had purposely smashed his skull into a metal bar on his bunk bed. Guards then found a bloody staple that the boy had been using to cut his thigh. When he was escorted away, the boy announced, "You haven't seen nothing yet!" asking, "You wanna see blood?"

The guards put the boy in solitary confinement, removed his clothes, and gave him what's called a "suicide suit" to wear. He refused, and stood undressed, hitting his wound and punching the wall with his fist, 'til staff calmed him down.

• Staples are a popular cutting implement for kids at the ADJC. On April 14, staff found that a girl at Black Canyon had hidden a staple under her upper lip. She admitted she'd hidden other staples around her housing unit, and showed them where. She'd also used lead from a pencil to carve into her skin, and showed them where she'd hidden that, too. She told staff she'd made a drawing in science class she was proud of; in it, she's hanging herself.

The staff counseled the girl "about setting goals for herself to keep herself motivated," according to the agency's report on the incident.

"Youth replied, 'If I make a goal for myself it would be to kill myself.'"


The Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections is supposed to educate and rehabilitate juvenile delinquents. Instead, the agency has become the state's adolescent mental hospital, a job it's clearly not equipped to handle.

Things are literally a bloody mess. Staff find screws, nails, and broken pencils in kids' rooms. But self-abuse gets more creative. One boy recently bit off his entire fingernail in front of a guard. A girl in solitary confinement was so desperate to hurt herself that she was seen rubbing her wrist against the rough paint on the floor hard enough to draw blood. The kids are sometimes put into suicide suits so they won't try to hang themselves with their shirts or pants, but the Velcro on the suits presents a challenge; you can draw blood with that, too.

For some kids, the cutting and suicidal talk is almost certainly copycat behavior. But every suicide threat is supposed to be taken seriously. And some kids arrive very sick.

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23 comments
raymondabeck
raymondabeck

Why doesn't the Arizona Republic carry these stories?

Itunes and paypal
Itunes and paypal

I found your blog when I was looking for a different sort of information but I was very happy and glad to read through your blog. The information available here is great.

k#28419
k#28419

I was in Eagle Point School I never heard of anything like that from there but yet staff still tend to make EPS seem like the worst facility. During my stay there I never heard of anyone trying to kill or harm themselves. I think it was the best and it sucks that they closed it down. It’s better than my juvenile center here in Yuma.

ADJC Staff
ADJC Staff

Unfortunately this article is both true and misleading, a more accurate representation would only be possible if names were allowed to be released of these youth who are harming themselves. If this were the case then rather than having an extensive looking list of several incidents there would be a list of incidents with only a few names on the headlines. You see, not every incident was a different youth, rather several attempts made by the same few youth. However like Michael Moore's biased and misleading films, this article was written with the intention of hurting the ADJC image.

k#24733
k#24733

I was in Black Canyon also but why cant i find anything about what happened on maya during my stay? girls were sexually assaulted by our unit manager. staff having sex at work. why isnt any one talking about this? shouldnt the public know this? you should look into my incident reports k#24733

Larry Brady
Larry Brady

It is no wonder that ADJC is being completely shut down by the governor. The executive management team is a joke from the director Branham, deputy director Dr. Warran, investigations, the legel team, parole, communications etc. They never fix the problem and are always reactive. They talk a good talk but never fix problems and are never proactive. All of their numbers and statistics are misrepresentations of the truth. Their programing doesn't work and treatment is a joke. Of course it looks great on paper because the truth is hidden. It is no wonder kids hurt themselves. The front line staff do the best they can with no leadership from the top. Once in the community the kids have free reign to hurt and torment society once again. Unfortunately this is a common occurance with all state agencies...lack of leadership.

rose
rose

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Report Card 7: An overview of child well-being in rich countriesA comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nationshttp://www.unicef-irc.org/publ...The true measure of a nation�s standing is how well it attends to its children � their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.The chart below presents the findings of this Report Card in summary form. Countries are listed in order of their average rank for the six dimensions of child well-being that have been assessed. A light blue background indicates a place in the top third of the table; mid-blue denotes the middle third and dark blue the bottom third.The United Kingdom and the United States find themselves in the bottom third of the rankings for five of the six dimensions reviewed. . .

----------

2005-ish, and it is NOT getting any better -According to the Child Welfare League of America, 25 percent become homeless, 56 percent are unemployed, 27 percent of male children end up in jail. In fact, the next big wave of homeless people might be foster kids aging out. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb...

Pew Commission on Children in Foster Carehttp://pewfostercare.org/

Feds provide the funding (20 + billion, states ruin the lives). The pimp and the prostitute. As usual - $$$, the root of all evil. Seems to me family assistance (and a return to traditional family) would be a better focus. Federal funding law mandating "Reaonable efforts" to prevent removal. 42 U.S.C. 671(a)(15); C.F.R. 1356.21(b)(2); 42 U.S.C. 672(a)

Incarceration, another corporate money maker. America incarcerates more than anyone in the world. One might believe its all intended in the name of profit...the hand that rocks the cradle. Indeed.

Rose
Rose

First, there is a much earlier problem. More than half (it may be as high as 70 percent or more) of children removed from their bio families - especially while very young, end up homeless and/or in prisons. Again, they do more damage than good. This is a proven fact.

Second -

Survey: More than 1 in 10 youth inmates say they were sexually abused - For some facilities the estimated percentage of victimized juvenile inmates exceeded 30 percent.January 7, 2010 http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/...STORY HIGHLIGHTSJustice Department on Thursday released report on youths in major U.S. facilities One in 10 surveyed said they were sexually abused while in detention, report says Because there was no follow-up, report says, "some allegations ... may be untrue" 13 facilities were "high rate" -- at least 20 percent of young inmates said they were raped

Shock study: 12% of kids sexually abused in govt. custodyJan 7th, 2010, By Daniel Tencer, http://rawstory.com/2010/01/st...

USDOJSexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth, 2008-09Allen J. Beck, Paul Guerino, Paige M. HarrisonJanuary 7, 2009, NCJ 228416http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index...on linkPress Release Acrobat file (PDF 1.7M)ASCII file (65K)

Sex Abuse High at Youth Detention Centers - Study: 1 in 3 Juvenile Inmates Report Abuse with either other Inmates or StaffWASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2010, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories...

Zip format (Spreadsheet 40K)Again, thanks CPS, you kill the children eventually.BTW, cutting is a very common symptom of sexual abuse and of guilt (why was I removed? Doesn't my family love me?)Abrupt separation from primary caretakers is VERY damaging.And as you can see, the abuse and trauma continues throughout their life.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

http://criminaljustice.change....

Sexual Assaults Rampant in Juvenile Detention

BY MATT KELLEYCATEGORIES: JUVENILE JUSTICE, PRISON CONDITIONS, PRISON RAPEPUBLISHED JANUARY 07, 2010 @ 04:48PM PT

A report released today by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that more than 12% of young people in juvenile detention facilities are sexually assaulted during their incarceration. The study points specifically to a serious problem with staff in these facilities: 80 percent of juvenile prisoners reporting abuse were abused by staff, and, surprisingly, 95 percent of those abused by staff were abused by female staffers.

Writing today on the New York Review of Books blog, Just Detention International Executive Director Lovisa Stannow and writer David Kaiser point to these new statistics as a sign of the work to be done in preventing sexual assault in prison. Not only are these numbers shocking, they write, they're also probably underreported, because prisoners are often hesitate to report assaults and because some facilities and juveniles were left out.

Looking at the high numbers of staff assaults, Stannow and Kaiser write:Staff caught having sex with inmates often claim it�s consensual. But staff have enormous control over inmates� lives. They can give them privileges, such as extra food or clothing or the opportunity to wash, and they can punish them: everything from beatings to solitary confinement to extended sentences. The notion of a truly consensual relationship in such circumstances is grotesque even when the inmate is not a child.

The epidemic of sexual assault in juvenile facilities is terrible, and it's just one aspect of wider problem. It has been more than six months since the U.S. federal government released the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission Report, calling for the implementation of universal standards to address core prison management issues such as staff training, inmate education, housing, investigations, and medical and mental health care in the aftermath of an assault. These reforms have been slow to come, Stannow and Kaiser write, saying: "despite the reports by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, some important corrections leaders are fighting the necessary reforms."

In juvenile facilities at least, with so much of the problem concentrated among staff, the problem can and should be addressed immediately and swiftly by wardens and corrections officials. The commission's report issued in June (PDF here) calls for corrections institutions to change their cultures to deal with the rate of assaults by staff.

"Leaders need the right staff to create a genuine culture of zero tolerance," the report says. "Rigorous vetting is crucial; so are supporting and promoting staff that demonstrate commitment to preventing sexual abuse."

This is a big job, but it is absolutely critical that we tackle prison sexual assaults head on. If we fail to address this issue openly and immediately, we're fueling a institutional culture that accepts sexual assault behind bars, and that's not acceptable.

School to Prison Pipeline
School to Prison Pipeline

http://criminaljustice.change....

The School to Prison Pipeline Game

BY MATT KELLEYPUBLISHED JANUARY 08, 2010 @ 03:37PM PT

Here's a hypothetical:

You're in high school. You keep a cell phone on you for family emergencies even though you know it's against the rules. You're caught and threatened with suspension? What do you do?

A new online game from the ACLU uses situations like this to show that the school-to-prison pipeline is more than a hypothetical. There's a slippery slope that can -- and does -- lead from one institution to another.See for yourself. Play the game here.

People of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be suspended or expelled than other students, and suspension is the first step on the path toward incarceration. Many schools have zero tolerance policies for students who break the rules, even when the rules are subjective.

Even the American Bar Association has come down against zero tolerance policies in schools, comparing them to mandatory minimums in our courts.Law professor Bernardine Dohrn summed up the problem at a panel discussion at Northwestern Law School in November: �You never want to punish a child by depriving them of an education�that to me is a society committing suicide.� Watch the full panel here.

The school to prison pipeline is real. Not only is there a direct correlation between the quality of our education system and the size of our prisons, but the opportunities offered and discipline doled out in our schools have a direct impact on incarceration later in life.

I wrote today about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to rebalance California's spending toward education and away from prisons. He's on the right track, but still misses the point in several critical ways. Improving our schools, and ensuring that discipline and alternative programs don't let kids fall through the cracks, will play a role in ensuring a smaller prison population for the next generation.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

http://www.change.org/actions/...

Tell the Senate: Pass Juvenile Justice Reform Now!

Targeting: The U.S. Senate

Sponsored by: Campaign for Youth Justice

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2009, S. 678, has been introduced and was approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 12-7 on December 17th, 2009.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), was first enacted in 1974 and provides federal funding to states that comply with a set of best practices aimed at avoiding the detention and incarceration of young people in juvenile and adult facilities.

It's a good law, and is needed now more than ever to end the over-incarceration of young people of color in the justice system and stop the inappropriate use of adult jails for warehousing children charged as adults.

If you believe that it is urgent to stop putting youth in adult jails and prisons, to end the over-incarceration of youth of color in the justice system, and instead to devote more resources to effective juvenile justice programs such as alternatives to detention and incarceration, contact the Senate now and urge them to move the bill on the Senate floor now!

Send the letter below to urge your Senators to move the JJDPA bill now to take positive steps to fix our juvenile justice system!

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

People can do something. Take action here and write your state legislators and Governor Brewer.

http://www.change.org/actions/...

Tell the Senate: Pass Juvenile Justice Reform Now!

Targeting: The U.S. SenateSponsored by: Campaign for Youth JusticeThe Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2009, S. 678, has been introduced and was approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 12-7 on December 17th, 2009. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), was first enacted in 1974 and provides federal funding to states that comply with a set of best practices aimed at avoiding the detention and incarceration of young people in juvenile and adult facilities.

It's a good law, and is needed now more than ever to end the over-incarceration of young people of color in the justice system and stop the inappropriate use of adult jails for warehousing children charged as adults.

If you believe that it is urgent to stop putting youth in adult jails and prisons, to end the over-incarceration of youth of color in the justice system, and instead to devote more resources to effective juvenile justice programs such as alternatives to detention and incarceration, contact the Senate now and urge them to move the bill on the Senate floor now!

Send the letter below to urge your Senators to move the JJDPA bill now to take positive steps to fix our juvenile justice system!

Steven R. Isham M.A., L.B.S.W.
Steven R. Isham M.A., L.B.S.W.

Just wait until the next 15% cuts kick in on July 1, 2010. You have not seen anything yet. The Governor and Legislature have dessimated Arizona's "Infrastructure". The rich Department Heads have their jobs and the others have to keep their jobs but when you look at the upper middle management that have run the systems and have the knowledde and history they are moving on because one thing they have that the rest of government does not have is "integrity" and they sincerely care about Arizonan's above themselves

Chris Long
Chris Long

Dear Amy:

Your article is not telling us anything we don't already know about DOC, state agencies, state government and, by extension, the state itself.

OK, the place is honesty-challenged, shot through-and-through with corruption and the Fat Cats and politicos spin their webs, irrespective of public outrage.

The prisons have descended into chaos since the departure of the reformer Ellis MacDougall. Other than the flurry of reform activity under MacDougall, there has not been one credible attempt in TWENTY FIVE YEARS.

Why don't people care ? Because they want personal revenge on the incarcerated men and women and want them to SUFFER; 'they deserve what they get..." blah, blah blah...

Want to know the true cost ? Wait until all those abused and pissed of prisoners get out confront you for your wallet, car, or try to get into your home. If you are able to get past the outrage and anger at being victimized, it's only then you'll see what the high cost of mismanaging the dignity of tens of thousands of prisoners.

Nick
Nick

Just let them kill themselves. why hole back its not worth helping someone who's only going to do more harm then good in the long run.

jdub
jdub

Seems to me if someone wants to "go" who are we to say no? What about all the talk about personal freedoms? Help when you can of course, but not all can be helped. Does not a person have the right to fight to live? Then what if you don't want to? Should we be forced? I don't know the answer, but sometimes the simple answers are the right ones.

Dawn
Dawn

Why isnt there anything written in what they did to HELP this kids? WHY are they just stating the neg. what about people who came to these kids aide? And another thing that BLOWS my mind is most of these kids are under age who gave permission to explot these kids? And who in the system leaked the story? if ur that unhappy with ur job where u want to talk all neg. and not the positive then why are u working there? Someone on the inside let info out that personally shouldn't of done UNLESS u tell people what happen to this kids, what meds there on and why they act the way they do and what happen when people came to there aide!!! As a parent I would be PISSED that some idiot took my kids info and made a story about it,isnt that privacy?! And what about the kids who come out of there half way decent? Nobody talks about that... ALL neg... Its crap!!! I am sick that people would go above and beyond for a story!!

Anonymous
Anonymous

I write this in hopes of sparking some interest in someone to look further into this issue. Not only are staff to child ratio's unacceptable and a contributing factor in the clear decline in both child and staff safety, but so is scheduling. My husband works for ADJC, for two years now. He is asked to work an 8 hour grave shift, come home and sleep for 5 hours at best, and then is expected to go back to work for another 8 hour swing shift. Scheduling is inconsistent at best, routinely changes without warning and leaves guards, at the very least, tired and agitated. Not the best combination for taking care of mentally ill children. I hate his job and have begged him to change. ADJC does not consider it's employee's needs, or the needs of the employee's family. I never see my husband anymore, his children never see him. As far as I am concerned Administration and Management for ADJC can jump off a building. They treat there employee's as if they are criminal's as well. I have had calls in the middle of the night, just 30min after my husband has returned from work, from management instructing him to come back in. I don't know about you, but I work to live. My family is my priority and any organization that cannot understand and accept that will surely lose all of its good employee's in time. I want to thank ADJC for making the last two years of my life a nightmare. This agency needs to be looked at closely and maybe with some luck things might change. I just hope my husband is long gone before that happens.

Sincerely,Frustrated

FormerRepublican
FormerRepublican

What is America doing to it's children?

Task Force Finds Crisis in New York�s Juvenile Prison System - NYTimes.comhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/12...

This is what our nation is creating as a society. We are looking at our future. It's time the conservatives who created "tough on crime" to gain the vote and the money, now fix the mess. Washing their hands by privatizing / selling state prisons is cowardly. Start reducing the prison size.

Angie
Angie

Funny, the only people who seem to care about these kids and who I have seen (firsthand) make great strides in giving them some sense of hope are those who used to do chapel services in the institutions. These are the same people that are blamed for violating separation of church and state by those with the same kind of slant the New Times seems to put on every article. The kids can cut themselves up all day long as long as those "wacky religious types" don't help them, right?

isolate, and extract
isolate, and extract

no comments on this article, hun? that figures. nobody ever wants to do the dirty work, their too busy counting money, hustling for jet fuel or making jokes about the new freeway route.

The smaller ones come out easy, it's the stronger demons that take work. of course, with minors, the legal ramifications are probably too risky. so they fall thru the cracks.

if the state Reps actually cared, safe and appropreiate oversight laws could be created for on-staff deliverance ministers (yes, exorcist).

But then, like connecting the 202 directly at the 101, it's a common sense. But hey, who give a damn?

Stormybenton
Stormybenton

i was in adjc for 9 months and i knew the girl that cut her arms and austin presly that killed himself he was a good guy really his family could not except the fact that he was gay it was really hard for us 'GAYS' in adjc everyday it was something new. the kids where so rude and nasty to us my name is stormy ray benton the staff do there best to help us out as muchh as they can but the kids find new ways to hurt us, mrs.z. was the best she loves kids she has worked adjc for 21 years shes the mom of adjc. adjc is not what people make it seem its really not both of my sisters use to be there as well

 
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