The Colorado Independent | By Susan GreenePosted: 05/09/2013 3:39 pm EDT
Fourteen-year-old Kiondre Davison had a habit of acting up in school and running away from home. Social services officials stepped in to help. They sent him to El Pueblo Boys and Girls Ranch, a teen treatment center that touts its “environment of safety and loving care.”
Kiondre – with an IQ of 62 and an array of developmental disabilities – bickered with staffers, fought with other kids and exhibited what the Pueblo-based center documented as a pattern of inappropriate behavior. Its form of treatment: forcing him to spend at least 25 consecutive days last year in one of its “reflections cottages”
— spaces that, despite the pleasant name, Kiondre describes as “hell.”
“Reflection,” as practiced in many cases at El Pueblo, is a form of solitary confinement in a cement cell. For some teens at the center, state investigators have found, reflection means no school, outdoor exercise or interaction with other kids. Kiondre didn’t really understand why he was put into isolation or how long it would last. He says the three and a half weeks or more he spent locked in solitude, unable to watch TV, read a book or see his mom “seemed like five or six months.”
“I’m not so good with stuff like months and weeks. All I know is it was long, real long, and it felt like the worst thing ever. I mean, ever,” he says.
El Pueblo voluntarily has shut down its reflections cottages as Colorado’s Department of Human Services investigates how many kids besides Kiondre have been forced into isolation there. Following a complaint
by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado last month, state regulators issued a report
on describing as well-founded ACLU allegations that:
- Kids are locked and placed in solitary confinement in El Pueblo’s “reflections cottages”
- Children have not been provided adequate education programs during their stays in “reflection”
- And youth in El Pueblo “are not provided recreation, exercise or outdoor activity.”
El Pueblo President and CEO Sherri Baca touts reflection as a way to “provide a clinical intervention for the residents in crisis.”
“The Cottages are an important element in the continuum of care available to our kids,” she said in a prepared statement, noting that her center looks forward to working with Human Services officials in their evaluation of its program.