The case of an Oregon Youth Authority official who allegedly stole state property and used incarcerated youth to remodel his kitchen has drawn the scrutiny of state lawmakers down on the entire youth incarceration system.
A review of the incident is underway, and legislators are calling on the youth authority to report its findings to a legislative committee in July.
However The Oregonian obtained documents and police reports earlier this month detailing the "sociopathic" activities of Darrin Humphreys, former warden at RiverBend and MacLaren youth detention centers.
"There have been complaints about management at OYA," Rep. Chip Shields, D-Portland, told The Skanner. "There have been very significant scandals within the last four years.
"I just want to invite the community who has loved ones in OYA to give me feedback on how they feel they've been treated."
Shields urges concerned family of incarcerated youth to call his office, at 503-231-2564, or email him at [email protected], to report any suspected wrongdoing within the system.
House Democrats scheduled a joint meeting of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on the case for Thursday, June 19, at 8:30 a.m. at the Oregon State Bar Building, 16037 S.W. Upper Boones Ferry Rd., Tigard.
Over the past few years the California Youth Authority and the Texas Youth Authority have been rocked by scandal and charges of mismanagement. In California, the entire system has been reorganized and renamed, after reports of unsafe conditions and gang violence.
In Texas, it was found that high-ranking corrections officials operated "rape camps" that systematically abused an untold number of young men, despite repeated complaints over a period of years.
In 2004, Michael Boyles, an Oregon probation officer, was accused of sexually abusing teenaged boys and sentenced to 80 years in prison.
In the case of Humphreys and Boyle, repeated reports of criminal activity allegedly went uninvestigated by OYA officials.
"It is our job as legislators to ensure OYA facilities are well-managed, make wise use of taxpayer dollars and are safe for the staff and the youth who are in their care and custody," Shields said in a statement. "What we need to know now is what the external reviews uncovered and what steps have been taken to ensure this never happens again."
Shields, chair of the Public Safety Strategies Task Force and a member of the House Ways and Means and Judiciary Committees, arranged the House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
"We will be asking the OYA director and his staff to let us know exactly what was in the two reports that were spurred by the RiverBend case, and to provide us with any recommendations made in those reports," he said.
House Majority Leader Dave Hunt, D-Clackamas County, said the Legislature in 2007 created the Professional Standards Office to receive and investigate complaints from within the OYA. That office received the original complaint about RiverBend and is conducting the investigation still underway.
"Through this new office, we were able to uncover a violation of the public trust and a situation where youth incarcerated in the facility were put at risk," Hunt said in a statement. "We will continue to require that these agencies be held to an extremely high standard.
"While the vast majority of workers at OYA are dedicated, hard-working individuals who do a great job, we must continue to be vigilant in overseeing agency activities."