CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An investigating body headed by the Supreme Court released a report Monday evening that highlighted several "troublesome" practices at two youth prisons and advocated for systematic changes to the state's juvenile justice system.
The report, generated by a commission that the court organized in 2011 partly to investigate the hazy circumstances surrounding the death of Benjamin Hill found that workers at the poorly staffed West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth, in Salem, and the Kenneth "Honey" Rubenstein Center, in Davis, were hindering the rehabilitative process for the youths housed there.
Among the practices at the two facilities, the Supreme Court found:
"The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is committed to a juvenile justice system which promotes effective interventions and enhances the likelihood of rehabilitation for those children involved in delinquent behavior," state Supreme Court Justice Margaret Workman, who headed the commission, said in a news release. "This report now gives the commission a framework to continue its mission to encourage systematic changes."
Monday's report comes as juvenile services officials begin the task of reassessing and relocating the children currently housed at Salem. A judge ordered the permanent closure of the facility last week.
In February 2009, Hill, 15, was found dead in his cell. Investigators the commission hired could not determine a cause of the boy's death, mostly because the body was cremated.
"With the information available, a positive cause of death could neither be determined nor confirmed," according to the report. "It can be safely concluded that procedures were not followed. Regular and timely resident checks were not conducted as specified by policy.
During the initial stages of the investigation, court compliance officer Tom Scott asked Salem officials for surveillance video of Hill's day room, or any other evidence they might have from his room. They did not have a copy of the video, Scott said in his report.