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State moves to close juvenile detention center near Saginaw

Simon Brass
Prison fence.

The state says it’s moving to revoke the license of a juvenile detention center outside Saginaw, after finding evidence of abuse.

The details of the state’s investigation haven’t yet been made public. But a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says investigators found evidence of physical abuse and safety violations at the Wolverine Secure Treatment Center in Buena Vista Township.State records show a number of previous violations at the facility, including an incident last year in which a staff member admitted to spitting on a kid after the kid spit on him.

The organization that runs the facility is Wolverine Human Services. It provided this statement from CEO Judith Wollack:

“Wolverine Human Services has a long history and proven track record of providing essential services and treatment to the children in our care, and safety is our top priority. We strongly disagree with the state’s effort to revoke the license at our secure treatment center. We are appealing this decision to prevent major disruption to the lives of the many young people and families we serve. We have always worked in close partnership with the state and remain confident we can come to agreement to keep this critical center open and avoid the trauma and upheaval that displacing these young people will cause.”

Last year, the state of Michigan revoked the license at two juvenile residential centers after the death of 16-year old Cornelius Fredrick. Fredrick was killed after being restrained by staff at Lakeside Academy in Kalamazoo.

After his death, the state promised reforms for all of its licensed residential care facilities for children, and said it would work to ban all restraints at the facilities.

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Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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