Juvenile detention workers sue Idaho

Juvenile detention workers sue Idaho
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Seven employees with the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction have filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the agency, contending that a Nampa detention center is understaffed, has security policies that are dangerous to staffers and kids, that some employees are committing fraud and wasting public money, and that those who speak out against misdeeds are harassed and skipped over for promotions.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Boise on Monday by Rhonda Ledford, Raymon Gregston, Jo McKinney, Shane Penrod, Kim McCormick, Bob Robinson, and Gracie Reyna. The workers are asking the court to order Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction leaders to change the practices at the detention center and to order the Idaho Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for Idaho to begin investigating the department for allegedly violating state and federal laws.

In the 24-page lawsuit, the employees claim the department is rife with problems that put juveniles at risk.

The workers contend that in at least one case, the department violated the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act by failing to prevent one juvenile offender from inappropriately touching other juveniles, and they contend that department leaders intentionally hid incidents in which juveniles were injured in an apparent effort to boost the facility's safety record.

The workers also say the Nampa Juvenile Dentention Center isn't adequately staffed, and that too few of the staffers are trained in the use of force against juveniles, resulting in injuries to both juveniles and staffers.

The employees who filed the lawsuit also claim that the department has let staffers continue to work with juvenile offenders even if they've been convicted of crimes and are on probation — and in some cases, even when the staffers are wearing court-ordered electronic monitoring devices.

The workers also contend that cronyism abounds within the department, that "favored employees" are allowed to commit fraud by padding their timesheets, that under-qualified people are given positions without the proper credentials and that those who speak out about the problems face retaliation from department leaders.

Officials at the Idaho Department of Juvenile Detention could not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.