Parents of Lookout Mountain inmates call for strip searches

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GOLDEN, Colo. — Parents and staff members at Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Golden tell FOX31 the prison for juvenile inmates needs to re-implement its policy of automatic strip searches after inmates receive visits.

That was standard practice at the facility until September 2017. Since then, staff and parents tell FOX31 the drug problem at the youth prison has exploded.

Numerous staff members have previously spoken to FOX31 about the epidemic of drugs at Lookout Mountain, but now, fathers of two inmates at the facility have agreed to speak with the Problem Solvers on the condition of anonymity.

“He’s seen every drug under the roof. He’s seen one kid overdose in front of him to where they to perform CPR,” said the first father. “Strip search them. If the inmate is saying, ‘Strip search me,’ then you should do it. Listen to my son.”

Visitation rooms at Lookout Mountain haven’t had surveillance cameras for years and the boys are not automatically searched after visits unless guards have probable cause.

The second father told the Problem Solvers that’s a mistake.

“Unfortunately, that’s the environment that they’re in. Yes, all of them — every last one them,” should be strip searched.

In an interview last month, Anders Jacobson, the director for the Division of Youth Services, told FOX31, “We are not at a place where we’re looking to go back to automatic full strip searches on all youth.”

In a statement released Thursday, the Department of Human Services said:

“The Division of Youth Services changed its policy as part of a long term strategic plan to integrate trauma-responsive principles and practices within all elements of programming. Colorado’s current policy and practice is also congruent with other states. The goal was to find a delicate balance between preserving the dignity of personal privacy of the juvenile and doing no further harm, while ensuring the safety of youth and staff.”

But both parents says the policy hasn’t worked.

“You don’t need probable cause. Search everyone. You have a drug problem, search everyone,” said the first father. “My son says, ‘they should strip search us, they don’t.’ He said, ‘they can get anything in here,’ and they do: lighters, syringes, cocaine, meth, pills, weed. My son says he smells weed every other day in the pod.”

In addition to drugs, the fathers say violence has gotten out of control.

“My son has been assaulted numerous amounts of times, by staff once and numerous amounts of kids by other kids there,” the second father said.

“Catching the bodies, that’s where you just stand close to each other and just start punching each other. You do it in a place where it’s off-camera,” explained the first father, who described his son as traumatized. “My son sits with his back to the wall now. He hovers over his food. They’ll steal his food.”

Lookout Mountain has installed new security cameras in the past month but won’t say if it placed any in the visitation rooms.

Both fathers say their sons will leave Lookout Mountain in worse shape then when they went in.

“I’m anticipating that my child is going to need some extensive mental health treatment for the rest of his life because of this situation,” said the second father.

“I think what the staff has done to him has caused PTSD. We’re going to have to seek some therapy for him afterwards just to recover just from what the state has done to him,” said the first father.

Lookout Mountains remains severely understaffed. Out of 150 direct care positions, 38 are vacant. Four staff members are out because of injuries on the job and eight more are on light duty because of injuries.

Last month, the Division of Youth Services offered youth correction positions to 15 applicants but only eight were able to accept. One person backed out; six others couldn’t pass the state’s background checks.

As result of under-staffing, Lookout Mountain has transferred many of its inmates to  other facilities. The prison is meant to hold 148 youth but as of Thursday has 85.

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