Friday, June 16, 2006

Criminals Guarding Juvenile Offenders

Criminal background checks on the 88 guards and supervisors at the Marion Co. Juvenile Detention Center discovered that more than 24 had criminal records--that's more than one-fourth. After detention officials discovered the criminal records of the 24, it suspended only 8. The other 16 continue to work, but are to be closely monitored and may face discipline or termination according to a Star report.

As evidence of just how poorly the center is managed, officials never bothered to check the criminal backgrounds of any of the guards and supervisors working at the center until an off-duty guard was arrested on drug charges on Wednesday. The Star reports:

The announcement followed the arrest Wednesday of off-duty guard Gates Robertson on drug charges. Robertson, 55, has a criminal record, including a 1988 conviction for battery.

Nine former center employees also face charges for allegedly sexually abusing underage female residents. The center’s superintendent, Damon Ellison, is charged with concealing evidence of abuse and failing to report the allegation to child welfare authorities. He has resigned.

“It would appear to me that criminal background checks were not done, or done on an inconsistent basis for the last 15 years," Bingham said.

The convictions uncovered this week range from drug possession and battery to theft and drunken driving. Criminal backgrounds for the rest of the center’s workers – who don’t have close contact with youths -- will be checked next week.

All new employees will face background checks, Bingham said.

This is absolutley unbelievable. How could you possibly employ people to work in a juvenile detention center without bothering to conduct a criminal background check? Yet another indication of just how badly Judge James Payne ran the center. Judge Marilyn Moores doesn't come out looking so good on this one either. She's been on the job for more than a year. That's more than enough time to discover such a glaring security omission.

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