State to close juvenile correctional facility north of Las Vegas

Yesenia Amaro

The state is closing Red Rock Academy, its only maximum-security juvenile correctional facility, Nevada officials confirmed Tuesday.

State officials were at the facility in Clark County on March 4 to discuss problems that they declined to detail. After the meeting, Red Rock officials told the Review-Journal that they would continue to work with the state to make improvements.
Prior to the visit, state officials had increased monitoring at Red Rock, operated on the state’s behalf by Rite of Passage.

“I can confirm that the Division of Child and Family Services and (Rite of Passage) have reached an amicable agreement to end their relationship,” said Chrystal Main, spokeswoman for the division, which oversees the state’s juvenile correctional facilities. “We are discontinuing services at Red Rock. I’m not sure what the status is, but probably soon today.”

The nonprofit organization also runs Silver State Academy, a private juvenile facility on Paiute tribal land in Yerington. Silver State Academy recently had its fourth riot in four months, which left an employee injured and two buildings burned. Clark County officials removed several teens that had been placed there.

As of Tuesday morning, Red Rock housed 43 juveniles who will have to be moved to other placements. The Division of Child and Family Services is working with Rite of Passage on a transition plan, Main said. Red Rock provided residential treatment services to at-risk male youth between the ages of 12 to 19 with a history of high-risk and delinquent behaviors.

The state has two other juvenile correctional facilities, including the 60-bed Nevada Youth Training Center in Elko, which gained attention last summer after reports were made of youth being hogtied. That prompted Clark County Family Court Judge William Voy to remove local juveniles that had been placed there. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of a juvenile inmate that alleges he suffered permanent injuries from the combination of a physical attack and the use of force by correctional officers while housed at the Elko facility.
The state’s third juvenile correctional facility is the 140-bed Caliente Youth Center in Lincoln County.

Red Rock Academy, which opened in December 2013, used to be called Summit View. Summit View opened twice and closed twice. The last time it closed was in 2010 due to state budget reductions.
The Elko and Caliente facilities are not maximum security facilities, but are considered “staff-secured.”

“We are disappointed by the recent decision, as the facility was on target to become a national accredited correctional model, recognized by community stakeholders, families and regulators alike,” Lawrence Howell, executive director at Red Rock, said in a statement Tuesday.

He declined to comment further.

Rite of Passage’s contract to operate Red Rock was set to expire Sept. 30, 2017. It cost the state $3.5 million to have Rite of Passage operate Red Rock in fiscal year 2014. For fiscal year 2015, the cost is $4.6 million, state officials said.
The nonprofit was paid $187.88 per day, per juvenile. No adjustments were made to the contract after last week’s meeting between officials with the state and Rite of Passage.
When asked what prompted the sudden decision to close the facility, Main said she didn’t “have that information.”

The future of the facility near Range Road and Interstate 15 will be evaluated by the Division of Child and Family Services, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and the state Legislature, Main said.
Requesting funding for the state to operate the facility could be discussed by those three entities, she added.

Susan Roske, an attorney with the Clark County juvenile public defender’s office, said she was informed Tuesday morning that the facility is closing and that some youth would be relocated to the Elko and Caliente facilities. Others may receive early supervised release.
Mike Willden, chief of staff for Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office, late in February told lawmakers that the Elko facility had about 15 open beds and Caliente had about 20 open beds. Those would not be enough beds for all the youth now at Red Rock.
Roske is disappointed that Red Rock is closing and said she hopes the Elko facility has trained staff and corrected the problems it had last summer.

“I don’t know what the issues are and why the state feels it’s not safe, but the kids really like being close to home,” she said of Red Rock. “It makes a big difference.”

Scott Shick, the chief juvenile probation officer in Douglas County and a Red Rock Academy steering committee member, said he conducted an unannounced two-day review of the facility last Thursday and Friday.
He declined to comment on what prompted the review, which looked at the facility, youth, staff, administration, grounds and operations.

“I don’t think it would make a difference now, the place is closing now,” he said Tuesday morning.

A Legislative Counsel Bureau audit last year found Red Rock was not in compliance with requirements for administration of medications and requirements for staff-to-youth ratios. There also was a lack of control over tools and contraband and poor reporting of corrective room restrictions. The audit also found that a lack of notification of youth rights did not ensure juveniles at the facility were adequately protected.

In April 2014, three youth escaped from the facility.

Documents obtained by the Review-Journal show Red Rock immediately took corrective action for each of the concerns identified and responded promptly to the Legislative Counsel Bureau.