Stopping Abuse of a Boy with Mental Illness in Detention

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Disability Law Colorado received a report that a 14-year-old boy with mental illness was being abused while in a Denver detention center.

Patterns of Abuse

The Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) staff investigated these allegations and substantiated four incidents of peer abuse: three at the detention center and one when the youth, Gus, was assaulted at a Denver jail holding cell.

Increased Safety

PAIMI wrote a letter to the Attorney General requesting accommodations so that Gus could have visitation and phone contact with his mother, and attached an expert’s letter in support. The AG immediately granted these accommodations. 

Through PAIMI intervention, the detention center provided an external monitor for Gus to ensure his safety.

The court-identified team of social services, probation, and the guardian ad litem were all leaning toward recommending commitment to the Division of Youth Corrections, which PAIMI staff opposed.

Final Outcome

Against heavy resistance, PAIMI staff succeeded by communicating with the Public Defender, showing up in juvenile court, investigating alternative, more appropriate placements, and bringing in a clinical expert to explain the importance of a placement in therapeutic residential treatment, where Gus now resides.

Through PAIMI’s intervention, the director of the detention facility has agreed to the clinical expert providing staff training about youth with mental illness. The director also agreed to review the resident handbook and make recommendations for change.

Further, PAIMI also connected the clinical expert with social services, resulting in training for their staff as well. PAIMI is still reviewing systemic issues that will be addressed relating to this case.

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