Young people at high risk of suicide at Colorado’s Adams Youth Services Center sometimes sleep on thin plastic mattresses on the floor outside the control room so the staff can watch them through the night, reports the Rocky Mountain News. Modern security systems at the 42-year-old state facility are scarce. Staff members walk long halls at night, checking each of the 24 rooms to make sure the young inmates are safe. Teens who are deeply depressed – most at the facility are waiting to be taken to juvenile court or jail – sometimes need to be checked every three or four minutes or more often.
Newer facilities have spaces where those who are considered a danger to themselves sleep in direct view of staff. It would cost $283 million to fix everything that’s wrong with state’s buildings housing high-risk youth, or roughly half of their total value. “This facility is as close to functionally obsolete as they get,” said Adams director Dwayne Epple. Adams is clean and well-cared for, but it is also heavily worn. Every day it is filled to capacity, with youths staying an average of 12 days. The staff juggles space constantly, looking for teens who can be released early to make room for new arrivals. One official said the state’s buildings are safe, even if they’re being held together with twine and baling wire.