Saturday, July 30, 2005

Injured guard calls
for more support
at youth facility

He says he wants more training and
restraints after a fight Wednesday

Guards need more tools and better training to defend themselves against violent teenagers at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, says Josh Duvauchelle, who was injured Wednesday in what he describes as a riot at the facility.

"I believe I'm just stating concerns that affect my rights, my security, my safety and my life," Duvauchelle said.

Sharon Agnew, executive director of the state Office of Youth Services, which runs the youth facility, said more training is on the way -- not for the protection of correctional officers, but for the teenagers.

Duvauchelle said the riot started in the living module next to the one he was assigned to at about 8 p.m. And when he went to assist, "I got punched in the head and in the mouth, kicked a couple of times."

He said his injuries were treated by the staff at the facility.

Agnew said another guard was taken to an area hospital, where he was treated and released. She said the officer was out sick Thursday, and does not know if he was at work yesterday.

Duvauchelle is off Thursdays and Fridays and said he will back at work today.

Three boys believed responsible for the attack, two 16-year-olds and one 18, were restrained and placed in isolation where they can be watched more closely, Agnew said. She said all three have been assigned to the youth facility for a year or longer, and one of the 16-year-olds recently returned to the facility after attending other treatment programs.

Duvauchelle said he believes more boys were involved in the attacks. He said there have been other incidents at the Kailua facility since he started working there in January, but none as serious as the one on Wednesday.

He would like to get the same kind of training and restraints given to correction officers working in the adult prisons.

He said guards are not trained on how much force they can use without violating the youths' rights. They sometimes feel their jobs could be in jeopardy when they must restrain violent teenagers.

Agnew said techniques used for adult prisoners are not appropriate for teenagers, might injure them and could be considered abusive.

"We do not allow them to use pepper spray or Tasers. They are handled appropriately for adolescent development," she said.

Agnew said guards will undergo training in September on restraint techniques appropriate for juveniles.

She said guards are given handcuffs and leg restraints, but only when teenagers are headed to court.

Duvauchelle also believe staffing at the facility is not adequate to ensure the safety of the officers.

Agnew said there are enough officers, but sick leave can affect staffing levels.

She said there is an internal investigation into what happened Wednesday, and said it appears the staff followed procedures. She said the officers' reports have been forwarded to the state attorney general for a criminal investigation.

Duvauchelle said he has not been interviewed by an investigator.

Assaulting a correctional worker is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. However, the rules are different for juvenile offenders. They can only be assigned for confinement at the youth correctional facility until their 19th birthday, no matter what their crimes.

E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- http://archives.starbulletin.com