Authorities investigate detention center treatment of Springfield teen

An internal investigation’s been launched into the treatment of a 13-year-old boy at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center, officials confirmed to the Springfield News-Sun.

Clark County Juvenile Court Administrator Wynette Carter-Smith said a Springfield teenager was peppered sprayed after refusing to follow the direction of court staff during court-mandated community service. The office has launched an internal investigation into the matter, Carter-Smith said, as is normal procedure when force is used to control a child.

READ: Does Clark County need new jail amid overcrowding?

“The young man in question reported for community service, but refused to work on the crew or follow directions of court staff,” she wrote in an email to the News-Sun. “He was offered several alternatives for completing community service, but continued to refuse. Staff informed him that he would be detained for not completing community service as ordered, and he became belligerent when staff attempted to detain him. The young man continued to resist and become more belligerent while being taken into custody, and was pepper sprayed as a result.”

Pictures of the teenager were posted earlier this month on social media showing his injuries. The post indicates the teen was held at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center and the teen’s injuries happened during his stay. The pictures, posted by the teen’s mother, appear to show the boy’s face swollen and his eyes red.

“There is no justification on why my child looks like this … He’s 13!” the post says.

Springfield NAACP President Denise Williams said her organization has been alerted of the situation.

“I don’t have all the facts,” she said. “I’m waiting to see the film and get all the specifics. I’m not going to come out with an opinion until I see all of the facts. On the surface though, as I see this kid’s face, someone needs to hurry up because that right there is disturbing and absolutely concerning.”

She said she has spoken with the mother, Carter-Smith and Springfield police about the incident.

The Springfield News-Sun received a news tip on a social media post and spoke with the boy’s family. His mother, who the Springfield News-Sun is not identifying to protect the boy’s identity, told the paper she wants answers.

MORE: Clark County Jail giving cells $10,000 makeover

“I can’t understand why his face looks like that and he is only 13,” the mother said. “He should not look like that.”

She said her son can be disrespectful and suffers from attention deficit disorder. However, she said she was not contacted by any authorities to alert her of her son’s arrest and when family came to pick him up after community service, they were unable to find him and were given no explanation from officials.

The mother got off work later that day, she said, and went to the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center looking for her son. She was told then that he had been detained, she said.

EXTRA: Juvenile arrested, warrant filed for alleged Springfield invasion

She first saw her son’s injuries in a courtroom, she said, and demanded answers then. None were forthcoming, she said.

Once her son was released from the detention center on Aug. 1, she took him to Springfield Regional Medical Center for a medical check-up because of his injuries, she said. It was at that time police were called, she said.

Springfield police call logs show an officer did respond to the hospital. No incident report was created, Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf said. However, pictures were taken and information was documented to be passed along to investigators.

Graf told the Springfield News-Sun these records are not public. Springfield police will assist in the investigation if requested, Graf said.

The Clark County Juvenile Court will do a thorough investigation to make sure all staff followed protocol, Carter-Smith said.

“Any time force is used to control a child, we collect written statements from all involved and review all security video to determine that proper protocol was followed and that staff acted reasonably,” she said. “We are doing that now for this incident. No complaint has been filed, but we are reviewing this incident, like any other, as part of routine procedure.”

The office will do what’s right, she said.

“If any remedial measures are needed following our review, they will be implemented at that time,” she said.

Records form the Clark County Juvenile Court shows the teenager was originally convicted on a charge of criminal damaging. He was then re-arrested earlier this year on a probation violation.

Carter-Smith told the Springfield News-Sun the teenager is not facing charges in connection to the most recent event.

“Probation staff decided not to charge this young man with any new delinquency offenses or probation violations,” she said.

The child admitted to the previous probation violation, Director of Administrative Services Kathy Lopez said. The case is pending a disposition hearing.

The Springfield News-Sun provides the best coverage of Clark County and Champaign County justice systems including complete coverage of court cases, internal investigations and policing.

About the Author