Longform

Kid Row

Page 6 of 9

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.

But more often, according to department records, female staff are having sex with boys in their care. A female corrections officer at Eagle Point failed a polygraph test in which she denied having oral sex with a boy while he was in separation in 1999.

Another Eagle Point officer failed a polygraph test in 1999 when she denied having "intimate sexual relations" with a boy. A female officer at Adobe had sexual relations with four boys between March and July 1999 -- including asking a boy to show her his penis, masturbating a boy, allowing a boy to fondle her and having sexual intercourse with a boy in her cottage's "tool room," according to internal affairs reports.

Just this past Saturday, Jim, a 16-year-old Eagle Point detainee, called his father to report that he had been beaten up by staff. According to Joel Ybarra, Jim's dad, Jim had touched an ADJC employee on the butt, on a dare. He was put in handcuffs and taken to separation. On the way, Ybarra says, "three officers started harassing him, teasing him about his ears," which stick out a little. Jim responded with a "fuck you," and the officers threw Jim to the ground. "They started rubbing his face on the gravel and started stepping on his head," Ybarra says, then slammed him into a door.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.