A May 1 riot at the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Golden left four inmates and ten staff members injured; four of the employees were hurt badly enough to be transported to an area hospital.
The incident is only the latest at a facility that has a long history of problems; over the past few weeks it's experienced an escape, a lockdown prompted by alleged death threats against guards, and the arrest of an employee for suspected sexual exploitation of a child.
The State of Colorado's LMYSC web page describes the facility as "an intensive secure treatment program for 140 male juvenile offenders" that "provides for the care and supervision of youth committed by the District Court to the custody of the CDHS Division of Youth Services (DYS). Lookout Mountain is designed to meet the needs of DYS’s highest risk youth and accepts referrals from all four of the Division’s management regions."
The program uses "cognitive behavioral and social learning modalities" designed to provide "an environment where therapeutic and strength-based relationships may develop. Services consist of academic and career technology programming, recreation, medical and dental. Spiritual life and pastoral care are provided by Youth for Christ and Straight Ahead Colorado. Treatment services are provided for substance abuse, family, mental health and offense specific treatment needs."
According to the City of Golden, members of the Golden Police Department were dispatched to Lookout Mountain just prior to 6 p.m. May 1, on a report of a riot in the Cedar Lodge housing unit.
The altercation is said to have involved eight young inmates and nineteen staffers. The two inmates that police believe instigated the melee were eventually taken into custody and separated from general population, but not before a total of fourteen people sustained injuries, most of which were considered minor.
The names of the inmates who are thought to have started the riot have not been released owing to their age. A City of Golden news release notes that "they have not yet cooperated" in terms of interviews with police, but adds that "there is potential for charges to be filed."
The identification scenario will change if the suspects are charged as adults — and that's what happened with seventeen-year-old Zachary Oliver, who chalked up 243 violations at Lookout Mountain before escaping in August 2014. In the process, Oliver brutally beat an elderly guard with a pillowcase filled with rocks.
Oliver was sentenced to more than two decades in adult jail in 2015; investigations prompted by his actions revealed a series of what were characterized as serious problems at LMYSC — not just cell doors that could be opened with some minor MacGyvering (Oliver used tissue and a playing card), but also offenders who were repeatedly terrorizing staffers.
The horrors could go both ways at the institution. Back in 2010, reporter Melanie Asmar shared a U.S. Justice Department report about sexual abuse in juvenile facilities, and the stats from Lookout Mountain were the worst in Colorado.
"At Lookout Mountain, 12 percent of youth reported being sexually assaulted," Asmar wrote in Westword. "Additionally, 11 percent reported staff sexual misconduct and 4 percent reported being assaulted by another youth." These figures were higher than the national average, she pointed out.
A number of more recent events at Lookout Mountain suggest that assorted troubles continue to plague the facility.
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On April 11, Golden police revealed the escape of fifteen-year-old LMYSC inmate Devon Brock, who was considered to be a violent offender. Brock was taken into custody in Littleton on April 12 — but that same day, the center was reportedly placed on lockdown because of a tip involving threats against five guards. Information suggested that inmates might have managed to sneak a weapon into the institution; while a subsequent search failed to uncover any guns or knives, a homemade shank was found. Afterward, two inmates were transferred to another facility.
Two weeks later, on April 26, Lookout Mountain made more bad news when Joseph Forrest, a 49-year-old staff member, was placed under arrest by the Lakewood Police Department for suspected sexual exploitation of a child. The LPD noted that the charge involved "possession of several images of child pornography."
The investigation into the latest incident is ongoing — and given what's happened at Lookout Mountain in the past, the revelations probably won't be pretty.
This post has been updated to include new information from the City of Golden about the number of inmates and staffers involved.