Thursday, January 31, 2008


A black human rights organization in Nashville has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation and initiate civil litigation against a Middle Tennessee juvenile prison where two teens have been choked to death since 2005. One of the two, Omega Leach III, is pictured here.

Clarksville On Line reports the organization, Power to the People, in a complaint to the special litigation section of the DOJ, charges that children detained at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center are subjected to “horrid” conditions and “cruel mistreatment.”

Located in Ashland City, the juvenile prison houses about 90 troubled youth between the ages of 7 and 17, a large number of whom are black.

Universal Health Care of King-of-Prussia, PA, owns and operates the Chad facility and Hermitage Hall in Nashville for 100 mentally disabled youth. Both facilities are licensed by the state of Tennessee, but youth from the state have not been sent to either of the juvenile prisons since the deaths at Chad.

The Chad Youth Enhancement Center and Hermitage Hall have been the subjects of recent exposes written by Nashville Scene reporter Elizabeth Ulrich. The articles published Nov. 8 and Dec.13 of last year highlight instances of abuse at the facility going back a number of years. The articles also shine a light on regulatory bodies such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations which have somehow not found the wherewithal to shut the place down.

The Chad Youth Enhancement Center is a privately owned residential treatment facility nestled in the rolling hills off of a winding, two-lane road just southeast of Clarksville, Tennessee.

Chad is a place where kids—some criminals or drug addicts, or with serious emotional and behavioral disorders—go to get help. All are between the ages of 7 and 17.

In a November 2005 visit to the center, Department of Children’s Services (DCS) licensing consultant Linda McLeskey noted that more Chad residents felt unsafe at the facility than at other programs DCS had encountered.

Chad Youth Enhancement Center in Tennessee continues operating, offering services to children from other states even though the state of Tennessee will not send its own kids there due to suspicions of abuse.
The situation at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center is not unique. What is happening there is happening across the country.
It's time for it to stop.

The following is from Black World Today.

Possible Cover Up of Teens’ Death
By JoNina M. Abron

Nashville, Tenn.-– Charging a criminal conspiracy to cover up homicide in the 2005 and 2007 deaths of two teens at a Middle Tennessee juvenile detention center, a non-profit black social justice organization here has requested inquests into their deaths.

Power to the People, in an affidavit to Tennessee Medical Examiner Bruce Levy, alleges that Linda Harris, 14, and Omega Leach III, 16, died at the Chad Youth Enhancement Center in Ashland City as the result of the deadly chokehold. “Further forensic analysis or referral for criminal prosecution” is necessary, according to the group’s affidavit.

The affidavit seeks inquests in Davidson County.

Power to the People has also asked Levy to refer Leach’s death to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the state attorney general for criminal investigation and review for prosecution.

Harris, of Amityville, NY, died at Chad on Sept. 15, 2005, less than a week after arriving. According to a September 2005 article in Newsday, a New York publication, staff members at Chad said Harris collapsed while being escorted to a “timeout room” following an emotional outburst. Paramedics found the girl with blood in her mouth, scraped elbows, and in physical restraints when they tried to resuscitate her.

Harris died of cardiac arrest exacerbated by morbid obesity, according to an autopsy conducted by Levy, the medical examiner. He made no mention in the autopsy that physical restraints may have been contributing factors to Harris’ death.

Leach, of Philadelphia, died at the Chad facility on June 2, 2007, after a clash with two staff members, according to a November 2007 investigative article in the Nashville Scene, Levy issued a homicide ruling in Leach’s death, citing blunt force injuries to the boy’s neck that were consistent with strangulation. Although one Chad staff member involved in the clash with Leach was later fired, no one was prosecuted for his homicide.

Staff members at Chad use a restraint training program called “Handle With Care.” According to a 2001 HWC publication, HWC staff is trained to use front and rear chokes and an arm bar choke from behind. HWC “allows poorly trained staff to administer dangerous and deadly chokeholds… which clearly violate the constitutional rights of these juvenile offenders…,” according to Power to the People’s affidavit asking for inquests into the deaths of Harris and Leach,.

Prior to Harris’ death, state regulators noted that staff members at Chad unnecessarily used physical restraint techniques resulting in numerous injuries to the children detained there, including broken ribs and collarbones.

Universal Health Care of King-of-Prussia, Penn., owns and operates the Chad facility, which houses about 90 troubled youth between the ages of 7 and 17, a large number of whom are black. Chad was designed to serve as a juvenile treatment center. However, Power to the People maintains that Chad and other juvenile detention centers across the country are actually holding prisons for their predominantly poor and low-income youth of color detainees until they are old enough to be sent to adult prisons.

Earlier this month, Power to the People asked the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation of Chad. The facility is licensed by the state of Tennessee, but youth from the state have not been sent there since Harris and Leach died.

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