Lately, ADJC has been in daily headlines, as Governor Jan Brewer and the state Legislature tried to move financial responsibility for these kids (most of whom are not violent — the most violent juvenile offenders wind up in adult court) to the counties. That didn't happen; the counties and state are still negotiating about what will take place next year.

One thing's for sure: Someone had better increase funding for mental health treatment for these kids.

The federal government washed its hands of Arizona years ago, wrapping up its investigation and subsequent oversight. In early 2009, the Arizona Republic reported on the findings of a state audit, which found that there had been no successful suicide attempts at an ADJC facility since 2003.

Sometimes staff will place a troubled kid in a "suicide suit," shown here in a cell at Adobe Mountain School.
Jamie Peachey
Sometimes staff will place a troubled kid in a "suicide suit," shown here in a cell at Adobe Mountain School.

But no one bothered to report how close some of the calls were. That was the subject of New Times' December story.

The May 25 death is under joint investigation by the Department of Public Safety, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, and the Department of Juvenile Corrections, ADJC spokeswoman Laura Dillingham told New Times on May 26.

Dillingham refused to respond to questions regarding whether the incident was possibly a suicide. She said department policy calls for welfare checks every 15 minutes through the night and said the checks were, in fact, completed in this situation. She said the children's faces cannot be kept covered, raising questions about whether the checks were done correctly.

Several days before the boy's death, a youth corrections officer at Adobe Mountain School took his own life. Staff report that the agency tried to keep the news "hush, hush" and did not offer counseling to the kids, who ultimately heard through the grapevine what had happened. It's unknown whether the officer's death had anything to do with the boy's death.

Following the boy's death, Dillingham said, counseling was provided to staff and inmates at Adobe Mountain.

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David Altamirano
David Altamirano

ADJC is one of the most dangorus invirnments a youth can be put in i know because i was there my name is David Altamirano K#29428 and i expereanced some tragic fights, gang violince and jumps just to put in work. if anything keep kids at Durango.


i used to be an inmate there and one thing is for sure, they do NOT do welfare checks properly.... staff would walk by with a flash light and not look in the windows to see if the inmates were showing there heads or not.... there are several staff members there that are undercover, and by that i mean they act like staff when they need to but behind the scenes they let kids fight or beat up certain inmates that they dont like..... that place is sooo corrupt and against everything it was supposed to and intended to be....staff members would lie and do things to us that would mess with our heads to the point of blacking out anger...... no way is this place intended for mental heath kids or any other petty crime children offenders....any you can email me at m.larue89@yahoo.comreporter who would like to sit down and tr


In the article, it is written that "It's unknown whether the officer's death had anything to do with the boy's death."

It may never be known whether the officer's death had anything to do with the boy's death, but there is considerable scientific research showing that teens are "inspired" by suicides -- so-called copycat suicides or Werther effect.

Schools and parents need to be aware of this, and juvenile prisons with many already depressed teens in particular need to take this into account. There is no excuse given that this is a well-documented and statistically proven effect.


she may be a good reporter but you dont understand where these kids come of first hand. these are the kids that think they can get away with anything, and if they dont get want they want they do things in extreme measures. this kid needed help refused it. i know from experience from dealing with this kids. most staff at Adobe had enough patience with trying to help this kid. know what is actually going on with the place before judgeing the staff who indeed work very hard to control needy kids who are very hardhead. there are many types of youth there. not all are easy to talk to or control, some need more attention than others...


Amy, this is such a sad, sad story. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

DES/DCYF as well as Juvenile Correction (JC) has such issues with how they treat children. JC has improved over the years, as evident by the lack of suicides under their care. However, DES/DCYF has a long, long, long way to go and many times more suicides under their care than JC.

There are two programs a delinquent can be placed-- Detention Home or Canyon State Academy. CSA is usually for first offender, non-violent kids. Detention is for the hardcore kids, of course.

Sadly, the state has used both Detention and CSA has "holding" places for children that should be in foster care or in "therapeutic care", such as this boy you wrote about-- they should never be placed around "hard core" kids. It's a terrible thing for a child to be "punished" because there is no foster home for them to be place, don't you think?

Amy, here's an experiment to try-- and I could type and talk all day long about this but you have to see it for yourself to believe it.

A) Call DCYF and find out how many adoption homes are current looking for children. Just get the number. B) Look at or, see the Arizona section.

Doesn't add up, does it? There are over 2,000 adoptable kids at any given time, only 30-40 children are listed. There's usually 100-175 adoptive homes opened. MOST of those homes will "expire without placement". Also, note how long these kids remain up on those websites. You can LITERALLY watch these children "grow up" with new pictures placed on these adoption sights. Many will "age out", kicked to the curb by their foster parents at 18. The independent living program [ILP] has a 4% success rate, the rest of the kids [96%] live on the streets. Some will find their way back to the bad homes they were removed from, though.

Thanks for writing this story. I believe you're on to something bigger than you realize.

James Connolly
James Connolly

Wow, rumors and ineuendos are delivered in print as facts!!!

From what I understand- the investigation and review by the Agency and other Independent Agencies ( The Department of Public Safety, The Maricopa Medical Examiners Office) is not even complete yet. How can New Times in true "jounalistic professinalism" say with authority- what really happened? And yet-what is printed is taken as truth. Pretty sad.

Would not one think that once the "official" report is released to them (New Times)under the "Public Information" Law, allow them to disect and further drill down into the truths and/or conflicts go along way to validating concerns and/or issues? Sounds like true Jounalism to me-does it not to you-unless one wants to believe in what your beliefs already and/or preconceived beliefs are?

Throuhout Mr. Branham's tenure-this Agency has been under more justified scrutiny-then any organization that I am aware of. And thanks to the incredible AGENCY work force and dedication by them- they (ADJC) has passed the scrutiny everytime with HIGH MARKS-this due to the dedication of all staff-from line level to the high level.

What happened-reference the most recent event-will be throughoughly investigated and the appropriate actions will be taken. (this is evidenced by the past seven years of Michael Branham's tenure). I can say this with knowlege of the recent past-to future make sure that this incident does not occur again.

NEW TIMES-AMY SILVERMAN-be a true Journalist and wait till you get the total facts. You will-with that information be able to appropriately question practices and processes.

I am very proud of the professionals at ADJC- who,as a majority, are committed to protecting youth and making them successfull. A Committed Juvenile Justice Supporter


My impression is that Amy Silverman was mainly critical of sending mentally ill kids into juvenile prisons that are not prepared for, and not intended to be able to deal with, such mentally ill children. I did not see any rumors or innuendos in her article, and she does not seem to question the commitment of the staff -- she questions whether it is really realistic to expect them to be able to deal with kids who have extremely serious mental health problems.

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