- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - Eight former employees of a nonprofit organization contracted to work with troubled teens in state custody are facing charges for allegedly assaulting the teens as punishment for poor behavior, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Seven of the former employees of Volunteers of America, which was contracted to work with teens in Department of Youth Services care, were released on personal recognizance after pleading not guilty at their arraignments Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court. The eighth defendant is expected to be arraigned Thursday.

Boys ages 14 to 19 were subjected to “ritualistic instances of physical abuse” at a Boston facility known as Casa Isla that has since closed, prosecutors said. The residents were referred to the facility by juvenile courts. About 100 teens per year stayed at the 15-bed facility.

One punishment that became known as “orange chicken” included being struck on the bare buttocks by an orange slipper, according to authorities.

The Department of Youth Services said it started investigating after getting a verbal report of abuse last August.

“We are deeply troubled by this incident,” a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said. The agency oversees youth services. “DYS has increased its monitoring visits and program reviews to ensure that we are providing quality services, and that youth are being treated in a safe and respectful manner.”

Volunteers of America said in a statement it was cooperating with authorities, including turning over 2,300 hours of security camera footage.

“Just prior to the time these allegations were made, DYS conducted a regular review of the program including the oversight of residents, safety protocols, monitoring, security cameras and reporting systems and found it to be in full compliance.

“It is hard for us to imagine that this could have been occurring given the rigorous oversight by experienced and dedicated caregivers at Casa Isla.”

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