VEGAS LOST: Elko's controversial history of abuse and 'hogtying' teenagers
LAS VEGAS (KSNV) —
"There were boys that were pepper sprayed and gasping for air. The kids were banging on the windows begging for them to stop," Jennifer Boxley told us in 2014.
It was when her son, D’Mycole, was in the middle of hearings about alleged abuse at the detention center where he was being held.
D’Mycole was an inmate at the Nevada Youth Training Center in Elko. He and other youth offenders had reported a punishment known as “hogtying.”
Staff at the NYTC would bind hands and feet together, then attach the limbs to each other behind the inmate's back. The result would be a teenager in a reverse fetal position.
D’Mycole told us and a local judge that the practice was physically and emotionally painful.
“It's tight, like if you were underwater, and it hurts,” D’Mycole told us. “I don’t ever want to go back to there. I don’t want kids to go back there. I do not want anybody to go back there.”
D’Mycole never did. Judge William Voy ordered all Clark County kids to be removed from the Training Center after the accusations were proven true.
The Nevada Youth Training Center survived the controversy, however. It remains a critical part of the Juvenile Justice system, housing kids from all across our state. It has done so since 1915.
News 3 wanted to know: How did the kids get here? How did they end up in front of a judge, and how was the staff suddenly under legal scrutiny for allegations of abuse?
We found out it was not the first time an incident like this happened.
During an investigation, we found a Department of Justice report from 2002 on the Youth Training Center after complaints were filed about civil rights violations. In that report, investigators found that excessive force was prevalent, and that abuse investigation processes there are often ineffective.
In 2012, the state contracted a Juvenile Justice Consultant named Russell Van Vleet to look at the Training Center.
The Van Vleet report found that the facility was out of date and made excessive use of solitary confinement. In one case, a youth was held inside his cottage with little privileges for his entire stay -- nearly one year indoors.
Van Vleet also was skeptical of the very low number of fights and attempted escapes reported by the NYTC.
“The pessimistic side suggests data collection wasn’t rigorous, or that youth were too intimidated or feared reprisal,” he writes.
Two years after his report, news broke that kids were being hogtied.
We asked the state why Elko is still being used, with their history.
“We’ve taken the past three or four years to look at that data [on solitary confinement] and say the state is still using more than the county. The average stay has dropped, and it took, frankly, a lot of people to come out and see it,"said Ross Armstrong, the administrator of the Department of Child and Family Services.
Armstrong believes that the Nevada Youth Training Center has changed. They have had to as the state has introduced laws to limit solitary in the facility.
Of course, people have seen it, including the man in charge of sentencing kids in Clark County.
“I’ve made it my Don Quixote windmill approach over the years to see that place closed,” Judge Voy told us. He has come close. The plan to shut down Elko will be on the next Vegas Lost.