KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) -- For the past six years the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating cases of violence, sex abuse, and civil rights violations against the youth housed in the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. But facility administrators said that has all changed.
From orderly guard stations to suicide proof security cells, the correctional facility complied with dozens of DOJ demands.
"We're no longer a place where they have to be afraid. That gives us the ability to treat their needs," Youth Facility Administrator Al Carpenter said.
Reports of corrections officers attacking kids led to one being found guilty of sex assault. In 2005 the Justice department ordered the state to repair things. Administrator Al Carpenter took over and ended the confrontational culture.
"What we do as a staff basically will dictate their behaviors. The more calm we are, the more we act like we've done this more than once, the more they respond to our expectations," he said.
Office of Youth Services executive director David Hipp told lawmakers Wednesday that the kids are now safe.
"To a youth they tell me they're being treated fairly," he said. "The youth correctional officers are advocates for them."
HYCF now has medical, dental and mental health facilities on site.
The American Civil Liberties Union feels confident HYCF complied with minimum DOJ standards. But lawyer Lois Perrin said the ACLU still wants some teens housed separately.
"This calls for community action, the need for alternative detention programs to ensure that these kids who are not committing violent offenses are not housed with those who are," she said.
Justice department oversight ended in May. It's now up to the correctional facility to continue improving.
"You have to look at not going from something, but going to something," Carpenter said.