PERTH - Though the boys portion of the Tryon Juvenile Facility is scheduled for closure in January, the state Office of Children and Family Services has begun hiring about 36 new employees there in order to comply with a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The settlement with the DOJ that requires New York to spend more than $18 million to improve the state's juvenile justice system, said OCFS Director of Communications Susan Steele.
Most of the new hires will be in positions that focus more on therapy than punishment, Steele said.
"There will be more psychiatrists and nurses as well as more youth counselors that allow for a different type of supervision, from a corrective to a more therapeutic one," she said.
About 172 employees at the boy's facility have been handed pink slips in preparation for the facility's closure in January. Steele said some of the 36.5 new hires could be transferred to the girls facility, while others will be moved to other facilities across the state. Some new hires will be eligible for early retirement, she said.
Tryon, along with other juvenile facilities in the state, was investigated by the DOJ after complaints of excessive force, sometimes resulting in broken bones and other injuries, used against the juveniles there. One Tryon resident, 15-year-old Darryl Thompson, died in 2006 after he was placed in a physical restraint by two aides.
"This is to comply with the needs that were identified by the DOJ for mental health services," Steele said.
Steele said job descriptions are being created for the various jobs, but it was unclear when the new employees would begin working.
"We have a timetable we need to adhere to as part of the DOJ settlement," she said. "We are certainly moving forward with it."
Mike Geraghty, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 559, representing Tryon youth division aides, said Tryon officials knew for years the positions were coming.
Geraghty said over the years, the number of juveniles in the facility that require mental health services has increased.
He said while the flat numbers identifying the number of restraints used against juveniles there may have increased over the years, OCFS should look more closely at the details.
"You could have just three kids that had 80 percent [of the restraints]," he said. "Over the years, the restraints have been driving the program."
Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.