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Child’s Death Raises Concerns About Procedures And Oversight At NY Prison Facility For Boys

The death of a child in one of New York’s juvenile prisons raises major concerns and must prompt a thorough and independent investigation, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union said today.

The child, a 15-year-old boy, died Saturday while incarcerated at Tryon Residential Center in Fulton County, a juvenile prison run by the state’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). According to the Fulton County District Attorney’s office, the boy died shortly after an altercation with a member of the facility’s staff, although the District Attorney also stated that it is unclear whether the struggle was a factor in his death.

“No child should die in prison,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “This tragic event raises an alarm about what is going on inside the walls of Tryon. The NYCLU and ACLU are seeking further information as to the cause of this child’s death, and we call on the state to initiate an immediate investigation of the facility by an impartial and competent party.”

The girls’ half of the Tryon facility was the subject of a report, Custody and Control: Conditions of Confinement in New York’s Juvenile Prisons for Girls, which the ACLU and Human Rights Watch released this fall. The report documented widespread and serious abuse and neglect of the children in the facility as well as an intensively secretive culture within OCFS.

“We are extremely concerned by this child’s death and will closely monitor the agency’s response,” said Mie Lewis, an attorney and the Aryeh Neier Fellow at the ACLU and Human Rights Watch. “This tragic death demonstrates the urgent need for real oversight as a means of ending the abuses at OCFS facilities.”

The ACLU/HRW report documents that staff at Tryon and another OCFS facility frequently use the “face-down restraint” procedure — seizing a child from behind and pushing them to the floor, then pulling their arms up behind them to hold or handcuff — to punish the child for such a minor infraction as improperly making her bed, failing to raise her hand before speaking, or failing to move or stand still on command.

“Using such violent restraints for minor acts constitutes a disproportionate and excessive use of force,” said Melanie Trimble, Director of the NYCLU’s Capital Region Chapter.

The report recommends the creation of an independent office charged with monitoring the treatment of children held in juvenile facilities and to preventing abuses. Several other states have created such offices.

The report, Custody and Control, is available online at

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