Federal judge orders changes at juvenile detention center

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A federal judge has ordered Vermont’s state-run juvenile detention center to reduce the use of solitary confinement and ease disciplinary procedures.

U.S. District Judge Geoffrey Crawford on Friday issued a preliminary injunction requiring the changes at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Colchester.

Vermont Public Radio reports Crawford ordered the Department for Children and Families, which runs Woodside, to make changes in the use of seclusion, restraint techniques used by staff and the treatment of youths in mental health crises.

The ruling came after Disability Rights Vermont sued, alleging children at Woodside were held in dangerous conditions.

“I am very hopeful that DCF is cooperative and that with our help and the help of experts who know these things … (we) can come together and implement something that is going to address the concerns,” Disability Rights Executive Director Ed Paquin said. “It leaves a lot of work to be done … to really figure out what can be done in a way that changes the philosophy at Woodside to be more humane.”

In a statement, DCF said it was “supportive of making changes to policy and practice that are reflective of current best practices for youth.”

In 2018, Woodside, which provides short and long-term placements for youths ages 10 to 17, had an average daily population of 12, down from 20 in 2014.

In January, DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz told a legislative committee he supported building a new facility.

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