Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2014

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Report: Juvenile facility hired workers with criminal backgrounds

A juvenile center that treats young men for drug abuse problems has failed to check employees for past criminal offenses, according to a legislative report.

The assessment, released earlier this week, says the Westcare Harris Springs Ranch northwest of Las Vegas on U.S. 95 “does not adequately ensure that it protects the safety of youths in its care.”

The staff of the Legislative Auditor’s Office visited or reviewed the procedures of nine juvenile detention centers in Nevada, seven of which were determined to “protect the health, safety and welfare of youth in their care" and "respect the rights of these children."

But in the nonprofit Westcare center, in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, the auditors reviewed the records of 10 employees and found five had arrest records. The files did not show whether the offenses were felonies or misdemeanors.

The report said one employee had been convicted of battery on a spouse or cohabitant, but it did not categorize it as a felony or lesser charge.

Another worker had been arrested for drug possession, aggravated robbery and terroristic threats, but there were no documents the individual was ever convicted. In a third case, records showed a worker had been arrested for assault with a semi-automatic rifle but failed to show if there was a conviction.

The center failed to follow up to determine the outcome of these cases.

The auditors said the law disqualifies hiring a person at a juvenile center who has been convicted of domestic violence or any other felony involving the use or threatening use of force against a victim.

The ranch said it has updated its policy in verifying background checks, and employees are not eligible to receive keys until their backgrounds are examined. The auditors said that two months after their examination two employees were fired.

The center serves young men ages 13 to 17 with a goal to treat substance abuse problems.

At Etxea Services, the auditors found contraband items at two of the facilities in Reno. These included restricted movies, cigarettes and a homemade pipe-like smoking device. The report also said the employees did not enforce the rules in many cases.

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