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Last updated 5:57AM ET
February 25, 2021
AP: Alabama Dept. of Youth Services Records Shoddy on Private Homes
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Call up Alabama's Department of Youth Services and staff members can tell you fairly quickly how many claims of assault, sexual abuse and other violations have been made by young people housed in the six youth facilities run by the state.

But the same information is not so readily available for the 26 privately run facilities that the state agency pays to house youthful offenders.

Private detention centers hold about half of the agency's juvenile wards, but DYS says it doesn't routinely keep statistics to show what is going on in those lockups.

The Associated Press contacted the state agency as part of a national project that found a lack of oversight and standards makes it hard to determine how many youngsters have been assaulted or neglected while in youth centers around the country.

After the AP's inquiries, Alabama DYS officials said changes will be made later this year to begin keeping better track of information on abuse claims in the private centers.

DYS spokesman Allen Peaton said not being able to check information from private facilities is a problem and the state will begin requiring the centers to track and report abuse and assault claims to DYS when new contracts are awarded in October.

Youth advocates say it's dangerous that problems at private facilities aren't tracked more closely because not having the information readily available makes it harder to determine when centers have become problematic.

Wendy Crew, chairwoman of the Board of the Children First Foundation, says DYS could certainly have more organized, more efficient record keeping than they do when it comes to private facilities.

She says she'll be watching to see if the department fixes the problem.

A lawyer involved in children's rights work, Crew says DYS should be extra vigilant in making sure the contract centers report all complaints.

Says Crew: "Why would I self report problems if I want another contract next year?"

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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