Division of Youth Services announces changes at Golden facility following riots, inmates escapes

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GOLDEN, Colo. — Colorado’s Division of Youth Services has announced major changes that will be taking place at the troubled Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Jefferson County.

One of those changes includes downsizing the youth services center and utilizing different treatment approaches.

Perry May, the deputy executive director with Colorado’s Department of Human Services, says they will now use what is called a “trauma-informed approach,” which recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma.

“The old model was not really paying attention to what kids have been through but just punishing behaviors and trying to get behavior to change by simply punishing….This takes into account what’s gone on for that young person and connecting with them,” May said.

The facility has also changed its search policies and added K-9 officers with plans to add metal wands.

“[The] strong majority of them had at some point, some traumatic event in their life,” said Michelle Barnes, the executive director with Colorado’s Department of Human Services. “These kids come into us as youth that need rehabilitation…So we’re trying to meet them where they are and ensure once they spend their time with us, we don’t see them again”

The Lookout Mountain campus will look much different as well. Instead of consisting of one large campus for 150 kids, there will be four smaller areas that will house 112 juveniles.

Fewer troubled youth might sound promising, but staff members said it won’t matter if the inmates are still calling the shots.

FOX31’s Rob Low asked the guard, “How safe do you feel working there?”

The guard said, “I don’t feel safe at all.”

The Problem Solvers agreed to protect the identity of the current guard who doubts the changes will be enough.

“I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD,” the guard said. The Lookout Mountain employee told us that three months ago, administrators started using junk food as an incentive for compliance from misbehaving inmates.

“The kids are extremely dangerous,” the guard said.

He says staff is not in favor of the overuse of restraints or seclusion rooms, but says administrators are caving to the state’s most violent youth, which includes juveniles convicted of murder and other violent crimes.

“They’ll say they’ll do whatever they want. They’ll assault whoever they want to,” the employee said. “They’ll run the programming…I understand that secluding youth is not a good thing. However, when you have youth that assaults someone — staff three to four times a day — what do you do with that youth?”

The employee said he is currently looking for another job.

Lookout Mountain is currently down to 65 inmates because many were transported to other facilities.

The Problem Solvers have followed the intensive secure treatment program in Golden for months, reporting on riots, escapes and the arrest of staff members for sexual misconduct and child pornography.

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