Four dangerous and troubled youth prisons in New York State will be placed under federal oversight, strict limits will be imposed on the use of physical force by guards, and dozens of psychiatrists, counselors, and investigators will be hired under a sweeping agreement between state and federal officials, the New York Times reports. It includes the most significant expansion of mental health services in years for youths in custody, most of whom suffer from drug or alcohol problems, developmental disabilities, or mental health problems.
Guards, known as youth counselors, will be barred from physically restraining youths except when a person's physical safety is threatened or a youth is trying to escape. Guards will be allowed to use the most controversial method – in which a youth is forced to the ground and held face-down – for at most three minutes, with evaluation by a doctor to follow within four hours. The agreement was reached almost a year after the Justice Department threatened to seek a takeover of the state juvenile justice system unless officials took significant steps to rectify problems at the four prisons, where physical abuse was rampant and mental health counseling was scant or nonexistent.