Uses of force increase in youth prisons

Guards in Ohio’s youth prisons more often resorted to force to control their young charges last year, according to a new state report.
Associated Press
May 2, 2014
The report released this week shows use-of-force episodes in Ohio’s juvenile facilities increased 11 percent last year, to an average of six per offender.

Overall there were 2,733 incidents of force recorded in 2013, more than a third at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility, where the most serious juvenile offenders are housed. An average of nine uses of force per offender occurred at Circleville last year for a total of 1,033, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The statistics were released by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, a legislative-branch watchdog for state criminal justice programs.

Force is used primarily when responding to acts of violence, which are committed by about 15 percent of the total number of juvenile inmates, youth Services spokeswoman Frances Russ said in a statement.

Youth Services authorities said force may be used in “exceptional circumstances.” It allows corrections officers to use physical force and restraints when juvenile offenders are violent, resisting institution rules or creating a disturbance.

The state report said there were 2,437 incidents in which mechanical restraints such as cuffs and straps were used to incapacitate juveniles, for a total of 871 hours. That represented a sharp increase in the number of incidents but a reduction in the total hours in restraints at Ohio Department of Youth Services facilities compared with 2012.

Use of force rose at three of four juvenile facilities last year. The exception was the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in Delaware, which is closing.

Comments

Tru Grit

For the average person who see's a article like this I can imagine their first thought might be, "oh my god what are they doing to these kids." As a employee of the state and a proud juvenile corrections officer who works at Indian River located in Massillon, OH let me give a better perspective then just numbers. This includes all three currently opened facilities too. The vast majority of "use of force" is brought on by gang related incidents. These include youth on youth assault and youth on staff assault. While DYS numbers have went down in population from the past years we are seeing a different type of youth. These youths don't have any sense of caring for their own self let alone anyone else's. Violence is the only answer to many of them and no matter what type of counseling or treatment they get, they don't want to change. Another aspect people need to understand is these are Ohio's most violent and serious offenders under the age of 18 and a small percent range from 18-21. If you look at the number of assaults they have went up as well. We don't just restrain Johnny biscuit because he is refusing do comply with staff direction, that is never the case many many things come before "use of force" it is and always will be used as a last resort. The public needs to understand though if a kid is refusing to return to his cell, or causing a disruption eventually that youth has to be moved, unfortunately sometimes by physical means. DYS has a exceptional use of force and managing youth resistance training and is one of the best in the country. Take it from someone who deals with these kids daily, the last things we want to do is go hands on but sometimes we have too and that's the reality when working with young adults to have murdered, assaulted, raped, molested, kidnapped, robbed, held hostage, you name it. These kids are committing adult crimes. Words can't always get through to the youths we deal with. If anyone has any question please feel free to ask. One last thing, many advocates don't understand what it's like to live the day to day life of a JCO, numbers are numbers and experiences are experiences. Some one looks at a paper and says "oh use of force went up, their doing something wrong" that's not the case. Gang violence is the leading cause of use of force and that's a fact. DYS needs to do a better job of handling the gang activity and that's a fact.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Thank you for the perspective.

ohioengineer

Thank you for your perspective and insight. Also, thank you for your service in what has to be a very difficult job.

I also have a question for the Register: what do your reporters do? Obviously the above story was pulled off the AP website and reprinted without a thought, other than perhaps adding the provocative headline. It would appear that with a couple of phone calls a reporter could have added some depth to this story, just as Tru Grit has done.

YoMamma

As a reader I say lock down 24/7 that would solve most problems!

Tru Grit

Yo momma Scioto use to have a 23 and 1 but advocates said it was Inhumane to lock down kids for that much time. The seclusion hours are being cut down dramatically so a youth might assault another youth or staff and only we locked down in his cell for 24 hours, compared to the 72 hours they use to do. Or of changes are occurring that doesn't sit we'll with a lot of Staff.