What to Know
- The city’s Administration for Children’s Services operates two detention centers -- Crossroads in Brooklyn and Horizon in the Bronx
- Adolescents who have committed crimes, including rape and murder, before their 16th birthdays are housed in the secure facilities
- Nearly a dozen staffers say they have been attacked or threatened on a regular basis by adolescent residents at Crossroads
Current and former juvenile counselors at a New York City juvenile detention center say it is out of control. They call it a "mini-Rikers," referring to the notorious lock-up for inmates accused of adult crimes.
The city’s Administration for Children’s Services operates two detention centers -- Crossroads in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and Horizon, in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. Adolescents who have committed crimes before their 16th birthdays are housed in the secure facilities. Some of the residents are charged with major crimes, including murder and rape.
Nearly a dozen staffers tell the I-Team they have been regularly attacked or threatened by adolescent residents at Crossroads, and second-guessed if they protect themselves.
"The kids, they have all the power. The kids are literally running the asylum," said Victor Silva, a former counselor who resigned after he was accused of child abuse. He says he was unfairly disciplined.
"The kids will tell you, 'Oh, I can punch you in your face, I can spit in your face, I can hit you,' and all I have to do is back up and put my hands up, and if you come at me, you’re going to lose your job because you are going to look like the aggressor," Silva added.
Another former counselor said, "Anything can happen at any given time, a riot, a group assault, a melee."
A current counselor tells the I-Team she was recently attacked by a teenage girl.
"She just grabbed me by my hair. And she just started upper cutting me in my face. My whole left side was swollen. My eye, she tried to dig my eye out," the counselor, who did not want to be identified, said.
"The kids can do whatever they want," she added. "There is no management. They can’t manage anything."
Crossroads Executive Director Louis Watts denied that the center is out of control.
"I would respond by saying this is not a dangerous place, but what happens is we work with youth that sometimes experience trauma-related issues, and we work with our staff to provide them with the best tools we possibly can," Watts said. "We provide adequate support for our staff and we believe in our staff."
A spokesman for ACS said that violence at Crossroads across the board has steadily decreased over the past five years. The counselors complained that the agency manipulates the statistics.
Darek Robinson, vice president of Social Service Employees Union Local 371 said staff morale at Crossroads has plunged "because of the way lower-level management treats the juvenile counselors."
"They do not provide proper tools for them and they’re punished for instances that are not in their control," Robinson said.
"They’re often prosecuted for just doing their job, he said of the counselors. "That’s not right."