Youths at the Clark County juvenile jail in Las Vegas were prohibited from having books or blankets in their rooms or talking during meals, says the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Those policies have been abandoned in the past two months in response to criticism from two outside organizations. Youths at the 235-bed Juvenile Detention Center still are disciplined with pepper spray and a specialized restraint chair, but the number of such incidents has been cut in half since April, officials said.
A recent report from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation and the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center said the facility’s disciplinary practices were so severe they violated civil rights. The report faults confinement procedures, lack of personnel, inadequate staff training, inappropriate mental health practices, insufficient medical care and scarcity of weekend and evening programs. Kirby Burgess is retiring next month after 11 years as director of the county’s Department of Juvenile Justice Services, five months after a detention center employee was terminated after a 16-year-old girl hanged herself with bed sheets. The report was one step in a long-term, top-to-bottom overhaul punctuated in the past year by a 20 percent drop in the number of children housed at the detention center, and the introduction of alternatives like home detention and referrals to mental health facilities. The use of the restraint chair and pepper spray are not prohibited by the National Juvenile Detention Association, but Amnesty International has criticized adult corrections facilities that use the device.