- Associated Press - Friday, October 6, 2017

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) - An assessment of Rhode Island’s juvenile detention center released Friday found that inconsistent oversight and deficits in staffing created unsafe conditions.

The state Department of Children, Youth and Families conducted a 60-day review of the Rhode Island Training School after a chaotic disturbance in July left two children and six staff members injured.

The assessment cited challenges prompted by inconsistent oversight, an unclear reporting hierarchy and staffing deficits, with about a third of juvenile program workers on leave. It also revealed that staff training, data collection and reporting methods, security equipment and the array of programming for youth need improvement.

Police also were called to the Cranston facility in May after four workers were injured in a melee.

The detention center’s executive director, Kevin McKenna, stepped down after the July disturbance, which authorities said involved one or more juveniles refusing to go to their room, and a staff member being assaulted by residents using a broomstick and a chair.

The report noted that the security system that monitors the training school experienced a “major failure” during the July incident, which prevented staff from controlling security doors and intercoms, and interrupted video recording. It said new equipment has been installed, but further upgrades are needed.

The 62 youth at the center are now housed in one facility instead of two to enhance safety and security. The department also requested that a Rhode Island State Police captain be dispatched to the training school to look for safety issues. Juvenile program worker positions have been filled.

Trista Piccola, the department’s director, wrote in the report that the safety and security of the staff and youth “are of paramount importance.” The report contains a lengthy list of recommendations and next steps, including hiring a permanent executive director, convening regular staff and youth forums and maintaining sufficient staffing and training.

“We need to ensure that our staff have the resources needed to do their work, and that our facilities and programming are up to the task of helping rehabilitate the youth in our care,” Piccola wrote.

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