COLUMBUS, Ohio — Twelve teens already in the custody of the Ohio Department of Youth Services are facing additional charges after they livestreamed destruction of property during a standoff inside a youth prison.
The incident this weekend at the Indian River Juvenile Correctional Facility in Massillon is just the latest in a series of problems that have plagued Ohio’s Department of Youth Services.
Figures provided by the state show there are currently employee vacancies at all three DYS facilities, which house teens who have been convicted of crimes as juveniles.
Livestreamed on Facebook, a dozen teenage boys – ages 15 to 19 – broke loose from their rooms after one teen reportedly took the keys from a corrections officer, according to DYS.
The teens then got into a school on the youth prison property where they livestreamed their antics.
The livestreamed video shows the teens showing off in front of the camera, flashing candy, fire extinguishers and documenting their destruction of a room - which at one point included tipping over a desk, and later shoving a refrigerator out of a broken window.
At another point during the video – which was obtained and reviewed by 10 Investigates - one of the teens shows off keys reportedly snatched from a corrections officer, which authorities allege, set into motion the group getting into the school at the correctional facility.
A DYS news release alleged the teens had makeshift weapons.
The 12-hour standoff ended Saturday when the officers used pepper spray to subdue and detain the teens.
The teens, who are already serving time for various crimes, have been charged with inducting panic, complicity to commit vandalism, escape and aggravated rioting.
The incident is still under investigation by the Ohio Highway Patrol. Six of the teens remained in DYS custody while another six were taken to the Stark County Jail, according to a DYS release.
Incidents like what transpired this weekend don’t help with employee retention, according to Wilson Humphrey Jr., a corrections officer at another DYS facility and union representative for the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association.
“This is a pimple that's been waiting to pop for years,” Humphrey told 10 Investigates during an interview this week.
“We need we need better techniques in our training. We do not have any techniques that are allow us to strike or defend ourselves. And that's a hamper. These youth when they are attacking, they are attacking us like they’re Mike Tyson. And we're standing there like Betty Boop - trying to use verbal (commands) trying to calm them down. And it's not efficient enough.”
Humphreys said guards feel hamstrung by DYS policies that limit their ability to use force only when there is an immediate threat.
Humphrey says it’s hurt employee retention.
Current figures show there are vacancies at all three DYS facilities.
But 10 Investigates found some force is being used – this June inspection report from the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee - or CIIC - shows guards used restraint holds on minors inside Indian River nearly 1,000 times last year.
10 Investigates found officers have also faced discipline – most recently at the Cuyahoga DYS facility where surveillance video shows a guard punching a youth in the face. A DYS spokesman confirmed to 10 Investigates the guard was later fired.
In 2020, a teen died at the Circleville DYS facility after being found unresponsive. Several officers faced discipline following that incident – including one who had failed to conduct security rounds and for sleeping on duty – although those issues weren’t directly connected to the teen’s death, the Associated Press reported in July of 2021. Another guard who had been found sleeping resigned.
During a news conference earlier this week, DYS Director Amy Ast told reporters she did not have a cost estimate and or when the school at the Indian River will be re-opened. Ast said they will “work through the process” to ensure children in DYS custody continue to get their education.
Ohio State Highway Patrol are investigating this weekend’s incident.
DYS has announced that it is working with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections special response unit to add body cameras for the corrections officers working in the youth prisons. A DYS spokesman also said the agency is offering additional pay for those working the housing units at Indian River through the end of the year.