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County Charges 43 Teens in Detention Center Mayhem

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Violence in Cuyahoga County’s juvenile detention center has risen sharply in recent years. Today, the county prosecutor’s office announced the results of a 6-month investigation into the problem. Dozens of youth have been charged as alleged members of a prison gang. ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm

In a courtroom at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center, Duane Deskins dropped a thick stack of papers onto a podium with a thud.

Deskins heads the juvenile division in the county prosecutor’s office. The pages detailed 437 charges filed this week against 43 youth. Deskins said they set a tone of violence and mayhem inside the detention center.

"There will be no more free passes," he said, banging his fist on the podium.

The charges include conspiracy, robbery, extortion and assault, among others. All the youth are now in custody. Deskins said they’re members of the Heartless Felons prison gang, which operates in adult prisons, too. He said they made hope of rehabilitation impossible for kids who are interested in changing their lives.

"That simply will not happen when their options are to sign on for a life of crime, or face beatings and starvation," he said.

Deskins said under-staffing, poor training and flaws in safety protocols at the facility contributed to the problem. He said many of the crimes were caught on video, but few were reported by inmates or guards.