Juvenile Justice Center guard says its understaffed: 'I don't feel safe there'

CLEVELAND - A guard whose job it is to help keep the peace at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center says he doesn't even feel safe there.

"A kid could just be sitting there and two or three other juveniles come from behind and just start pushing him on the back of the head and they get him on the ground and they actually stomp and stomp on him until help arrives and we pull them off," said the guard, who did not want to be identified because he still works at the center.

He says almost every day is chaos.

"I watched a kid beat another kid with a crate," said the detention officer. "There's a black crate that keeps their stuff and I'm like 'stop' and they're not listening to that."

The guard tells News 5 there are very limited ways they can discipline the residents.

"We're not allowed to touch juveniles, you know, we are told not to do that. We just try to separate them, we wait for help to arrive and go from there," said the guard.

But he tells News 5 that help doesn't always come quickly.

"Sometimes they're quick, but there's been times where it's been a good maybe five to seven minutes and there was one time an alert was called and nobody showed up until about 10 minutes after," he said.

The detention officer says there are supposed to be 12 juveniles to every one guard, but he claims they are understaffed, making it 16 minors to every staff member and, if things get dicey, there's no way for him to defend himself.

"No handcuffs, no taser, no pepper spray, nothing. You're just in there. One versus 16 kids," he said.

He says that's why he's not surprised there was a riot at the Juvenile Justice Center Monday night.

Authorities say 12 minors were inciting violence and vandalizing the center. The sheriff's department responded to the scene and one of their officers had to be rushed to the hospital.

Reports show two of the minors involved in the violence are the same ones that are accused of shooting and killing 12-year-old Abdel Latif Bashiti on Nov. 24.

"You know what you're getting into as a correction officer, you know the element of danger is there, but there are ways to curtail that, you know, it shouldn't be an everyday thing," said the guard.

Representatives for the Juvenile Justice Center said in a news release Wednesday that there are 15 residents in the center right now that are accused of murder and say juvenile homicides are up more than 300 percent since 2011.

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Cuyahoga County prosecutor: 'Our community is under siege by juvenile violence'

News 5 reached out to them again Wednesday to ask for a response to the guard's accusations, but they haven't gotten back to us yet.

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