Two counselors at the Salt Lake Detention Center were taken to the hospital after being attacked by three juvenile residents early Wednesday.
About 12:30 a.m., a 17-year-old resident said he was having an insulin attack and needed either sugar water or fruit juice. Two male counselors went to the boy's room with juice, and as one counselor opened the door he was hit in the face and knocked to the ground, said Bill Nelsen, director of Youth Corrections Region Two.There were 108 teens in the center, which is designed to hold 56 youths. Because of the crowded conditions, three boys were in one room.
After the first counselor was knocked down, two teens attacked the other man. The first counselor, holding the only keys to the rooms, recovered and ran from the wing, locking the door behind him, Nel-sen said.
That counselor ran to the front desk and called police. Deputy sheriffs arrived within minutes.
Meanwhile, the two youths continued to choke the counselor left in the wing until he was nearly unconscious.
The youths demanded keys apparently so they could let other residents out of their rooms. But deputy sheriffs arrived and quickly arrested the three juveniles.
Nelsen said the boy who faked an insulin attack was the main instigator, and officials will try to certify him as an adult in the attack.
Another boy, also 17, was awaiting a judge's decision on certifying him as an adult. Youth Corrections officials called Juvenile Court Judge Sharon McCully at home, and she gave them the go-ahead to book him as an adult into the Salt Lake County Jail. The boy was being held on aggravated-assault charges, according to sheriff's records.
The third boy, 16, didn't participate much in the attack, even though there was pressure for him to do so.
Nelsen said at least two of the boys will be charged with assault, and newly passed legislation hands out stiffer penalties for an assault on a counselor in a secure youth facility.
The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state because of the crowded conditions at the Salt Lake Detention Center. Kathryn Kendall, director of the Salt Lake ACLU, said the situation is "beyond critical, beyond serious, it's unmanagable."
"It's getting so much worse that I think I can say with a sort-of blood-curdling confidence that something very tragic is going to happen.
"It's just a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt or killed and that result will be on the conscience of everyone from the governor to the Legislature to Youth Corrections officials," Kendall said. "A permanent solution will take years and lots of money because we're so far behind."
Both counselors were shaken up but not seriously injured. They were taken to St. Mark's Hospital Wednesday morning.