Pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, and the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted an investigation of conditions at the ...
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Pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997, and the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") conducted an investigation of conditions at the Custer Youth Correctional Center in South Dakota. The investigation resulted in a "findings letter" being sent to the state's governor on December 19, 2002. The letter observed that DOJ had notified the state on December 29, 1999, that the investigation originally intended to examine components of juvenile facilities at both Custer and at a different site, Plankinton. In early 2000, however, the state refused permission for DOJ to tour the sites. Near that time, private litigation began concerning the Plankinton facilities, which resulted in a December 2000, settlement as to that location. Plankinton was closed in January 2002. DOJ explained that it had waited on taking further action until the Plankinton litigation ended.
On March 4, 2002, DOJ again requested to tour the Custer facilities, a request the state denied two weeks later. DOJ then interviewed former juvenile residents of Custer and parents of then- and former Custer residents. Finally, in June 2002, the state allowed DOJ and certain of its expert consultants to tour the facility and to obtain documents for review. After visits in July and August 2002, DOJ concluded that conditions at Custer violated residents' constitutional and statutory rights by not providing required special education services and by deficiencies in the mental health care provided.
The identified education program deficiencies were fivefold: (1) insufficient classroom instruction existed for residents of the intake center; (2) youths placed in isolation did not receive adequate educational services; (3) vocational programming was not available to girls at Custer, but was available to boys; (4) a learning center classroom was not staffed with a certified teacher; and (5) some learning disabled students ill-served by the full inclusion model of educational services had needs that were not otherwise met.
As for mental health care, DOJ reported that Custer's admission screening and follow-up reviews regarding medication were inadequate, the unavailability of notes from telemedicine consultations presented problems, the telemedicine procedure suffered from technical defects needing repair, and youth awaiting transfer sometimes did not receive needed mental health services.
The DOJ findings letter proposed remedial actions to remedy the deficiencies, invited the state to address the issues, and alerted the state to the possibility of a CRIPA lawsuit brought by the United States to compel remedial action.
We have no post-findings letter information about this matter.Mike Fagan - 05/21/2008