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PROBE BRINGS OUT FLAWS AT DECKER LAKE

An investigation into the escape attempt by four Decker Lake residents from the secure facility last month concluded the division must make changes not only in the Decker Lake facility but in it's hiring, training and staffing practices.

In a report released Friday morning, a team of investigators wrote that staff error was involved in and contributed to the youth's ability to get from their rooms and eventually into the facility's courtyard and then into another living center.During the escape attempt on July 5, one counselor was assaulted and two were locked in a shower room by four youths, who are now in the Salt Lake County Jail awaiting trial on charges stemming from the incident.

The boys did thousands of dollars of damage to equipment and furniture in the second living center. The probe was initiated by the division to determine what, if any, changes should be made at Decker Lake.

The investigators, four people from the Human Services' Office of Liability, pointed out several areas needing to be reviewed and in some cases improved. Among the errors cited included the person monitoring the control room failing to see the lights on a control panel alerting him that doors had been opened in the living center.

They said the two counselors didn't make rounds as frequently as needed and suggested the facility make policy changes that would mandate more frequent rounds. They said the counselors didn't notice the curtains in the living center had been drawn before entering the housing unit where they were ambushed by the teens.

The control room monitor also allowed the boys to exit the living center without asking the person buzzing to identify himself.

The panel said staff need further training in managing a graveyard shift, the division needed to review existing policies and the issue of double bunking and how youths are matched up. They also suggested the division review and refine it's practice of hiring part-time staff because it's cheaper, and provide better training.

"This review has discovered concerns that are not necessarily unique to Decker Lake Youth Center," the investigators wrote. "These areas of concern are beyond the scope and authority of this panel, yet it is recommended that an ongoing committee be convened to continue to explore in depth these concerns and their relevance to other facilities in the state."

One employee was reprimanded and the others, many of who were long-time staffers and considered good at their job, were advised of the panel's concerns. A number of changes have already been made at Decker Lake.

A memo from the facility's director to the region director detailed the changes that have been and will be made in the near future. They include a more frequent check of the facilities, the use of hand radios by the graveyard shift, mandating that staff identify themselves before exiting housing units and increased training for all staff.

Decker officials will also rotate those who are being double bunked and try to match them more appropriately.