Nevada lawmakers hear of trouble at youth facility

A state official told lawmakers that a not-for-profit contractor that began operating a secure youth facility last year for teenage boys at the former Summit View Youth Correction Center in North Las Vegas is facing $5,000-a-day fines after multiple concerns were identified in an operational review.

Amber Howell, state Division of Child and Family Services administrator, told the Legislative Commission Audit Subcommittee on Monday that based on the findings in the report, the state wouldn’t increase a 50-resident limit at the Rite of Passage-Red Rock Academy.

If conditions don’t improve, the state can terminate the contract, Howell said. But she cited recent improvements and said her agency was monitoring the facility closely, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, the subcommittee chairwoman, called the number of concerns cited about just one facility overwhelming. She noted the panel was reviewing audits of four of 63 youth detention being operated in Nevada.

“I’m willing to give people a chance to improve. But if it doesn’t, then we need to know what our options are,” Carlton said.

The assessments by legislative auditors ran from December 2013 through June 2014.

Auditors reported finding staff-to-youth ratios at Rite of Passage-Red Rock didn’t comply with federal standards, and that residents were found with sharp objects including pipes, screws and broken pieces of Plexiglas that could be used as weapons.

Officials cited the April 28 escape of three teenagers who burrowed under a 14-foot fence before being apprehended hours later by North Las Vegas police, Red Rock staff members and state Division of Child and Family Services parole officers.

The report said the teens used cutting tools obtained during a prior work detail and noted that tool inventory logs weren’t readily available for auditors to review.

The report also found that some areas of the facility weren’t always secured, that not all cameras were working, and that staff were observed on several occasions not controlling residents or holding them accountable for rule violations.

Lawrence Howell, executive director at Rite of Passage, said the facility made changes as a result of the review. “I would say 90 percent of it has been completely done. It’s a much better program than it was when the audit was done,” he said.

A Rite of Passage official said Tuesday that Amber Howell and Lawrence Howell are not related.

The high-security facility near Nellis Air Force Base cost $15 million and opened with 96 beds in 2000 as Summit View Youth Correctional Center. Critics called it a youth prison.

It was closed by the state from March 2002 to January 2004 after 20 teenage residents took to the roof in July 2001 and pelted police with pieces of an air conditioning unit for hours before surrendering. The youths said they were upset about conditions inside the facility.

State lawmakers closed Summit View in 2012.

It reopened last December as a public-private partnership under the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services.


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