Clarence Kelley Juvenile Justice Resources

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Forbes Juvenile Attention Facility, Topeka, Kansas
October 18, 2009 Topeka Capital-Journal
Insufficient staff numbers and inadequate room checks by a Topeka juvenile residential center opened the door for a 12-year-old boy to be repeatedly raped by his roommate over three days in January 2008, a civil lawsuit claims. "The rape, sodomy, sexual assault and sexual battery could not have happened if the boys or men were properly supervised," reads the suit. The suit, filed last year in Shawnee County District Court against the owners of Forbes Juvenile Attention Facility, isn't the only place to find concerns about the welfare of residents of the facility. Other issues related to the treatment of residents have been raised in inspection reports, internal memos and the words of former FJAC workers. Allegations of racial discrimination and questions about how FJAC administrators notify authorities of alleged abuse also have been raised. The problems, former staffers say, allowed sexual misconduct to go unnoticed. "The last couple months before I left, it was chaos," said Clarence Tyson, a shift supervisor who resigned in late 2008 after seven years at FJAC. The allegations are just that -- allegations, the FJAC administration said. Terry Campbell, executive vice president for Clarence M. Kelley Juvenile Justice Resources, which owns FJAC, said a handful of unhappy workers have already made similar claims to other governmental agencies. "I'm sure SRS has received them, KDHE has received them, JJA has received them, the governor has probably received them," Campbell said. "It's because we've got disgruntled staff, former employees. They're not the majority of the professional staff that we have." Campbell said there have been only six reports of sexual misconduct at FJAC since 2007, and only two were sexual assaults. FJAC, located at Forbes Field at 6700 S.W. Topeka Blvd., is a privately run youth residential center, a nonsecure group home for male juvenile offenders that houses up to 56 youths ages 12 to 17. The offenders sent to FJAC aren't the most dangerous in the juvenile system, thus one reason why it isn't a locked facility. Since a new administration took over at FJAC in late 2007, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has investigated 20 complaints there. That is more than any of the 29 similar facilities contracting with the state except for one -- Camelot Lakeside in Goddard, which has had 26 such complaints. Many of the complaints against FJAC allege insufficient staffing led to the incidents. And at least six workers -- five former and one current -- have filed state or federal discrimination suits in 2009. In addition to alleging black workers were treated differently, some of the suits say employees feared retaliation for reporting alleged abuse to authorities as required by regulations and law. Campbell points out most allegations by the former employees and allegations investigated by KDHE couldn't be substantiated. Ward Loyd, chairman of the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, said he hadn't heard of the allegations but said "where's there's smoke, there's usually fire." "It's certainly unfortunate to hear that we've got these types of allegations with any Kansas facility," he said. "The whole issue with having them placed in these kinds of facilities is to provide for their needs, not to complicate them." Civil suit -The 12-year-old plaintiff in the current civil suit against FJAC was referred to the facility in late 2007 or early 2008 by case manager Kenyetta Byrd. Soon after, an FJAC worker contacted Byrd concerned about the boy's small size. According to a February 2008 report by the Juvenile Justice Authority's inspector general on the incident, the caller told Byrd the boy would be "eaten alive." "They didn't even have clothes small enough to fit him," said Toni Wash, a drug and alcohol counselor who worked at FJAC from late 2007 to late 2008. "Everyone was asking why he was there." Campbell said he wouldn't comment on any incident under litigation. In addition to the civil case against Kelley Juvenile Detention Services, the roommate suspected of raping the 12-year-old is facing criminal sodomy charges in juvenile court. Immediately after Byrd got the alarming call from the FJAC worker, another case coordinator called and told her to disregard the previous caller. The boy was then placed at FJAC. The alleged rape and sodomy occurred from Jan. 22 to Jan. 24, 2008, and as soon as FJAC learned about it, officials there contacted authorities. The lawsuit claims FJAC workers didn't conduct room checks every 15 minutes as their policy mandated. The inspector general's report says room-check logs contained blanket statements about the whole floor without specific mention of individual room checks. In an e-mail to Campbell on Feb. 14, 2008, Kelley administrator Scott Henricks conceded some fault. "The cause of the alleged incident can partially be attributed to staff error," he wrote. In its court response, however, FJAC flatly denied the allegations of improper staff work. JJA commissioner Russ Jennings said:, "Is there a concern that staff aren't checking rooms regularly? Yes, there certainly is." Mona Brown, a floor staffer for more than a year until she was fired in January, said she wasn't surprised something happened. "The staff ratio just wasn't there," she said. "That is the thing that sets it up for things to happen."