Home News Center Press Release: Sequel Youth and Family Services Must Be Closed

Press Release: Sequel Youth and Family Services Must Be Closed

May 13, 2020

May 13, 2020

NJJN – Courtney M. McSwain, 202-792-9915, mcswain@njjn.org
MCYJ – Darci E. McConnell, 313-686-8094, darci@dmcconnell.com

Teenager’s Death Shows Sequel Must Be Closed, Justice Network Declares

(Washington, D.C.)— The National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) demands the immediate shutdown of Sequel Youth and Family Services after 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick died at Lakeside Academy, a behavioral health institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan, run by the private facility management company. On April 29, Cornelius went into cardiac arrest and tragically died two days later after being restrained for throwing a sandwich.

Sequel-managed facilities across the country have a documented history of inept management and lack of care for youth safety, NJJN noted, putting the lives of kids across the country at risk.

“This situation is completely heartbreaking and no parent should have to receive the call that their child died while in a youth facility,” said Jason Smith, director of youth justice at the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, an NJJN member organization. “In the wake of Cornelius’s death, we have heard of similar incidents at other Sequel facilities – most notably, at Clarinda Academy in Iowa and Red Rock Canyon School in Utah.”

States send young people to these facilities thinking they will be provided therapeutic services. Instead, they are subjected to abuse through bullying, inappropriate restraint, and other forms of physical abuse. Furthermore, we know from nationwide data that youth of color are more likely to be removed from their homes and placed in these types of facilities despite similar rates of offending. We must stop warehousing youth and subjecting youth of color to these harmful conditions. “We can prevent the next tragedy by demanding governors get out of business with Sequel and put the safety of their state’s young people first.” Smith said.

“We are calling for the immediate shutdown of all Sequel facilities due to their clear inability to maintain a safe and healthy environment for youth in their care,” said Alyson Clements, director of membership and advocacy at NJJN. “Unfortunately, the incident that took place at Lakeside Academy is only indicative of the pattern we see in privately-run, for-profit facilities: dangerous conditions, incentives to incarcerate kids longer, and prioritizing profits over public safety. We can’t stand by and let these private companies make money off the endangerment of our youth.”

A 2015 NJJN report, “Confining Youth for Profit,” detailed the recurring trends that make housing youth in private facilities so harmful, including the for-profit incentive to spend less money on protecting confined youth in order to maximize profits.

NJJN has circulated a national petition calling on governors to close any Sequel facilities operating in their states.


About NJJN:
The National Juvenile Justice Network leads a membership community of 54 state-based organizations and numerous individuals across 44 states and D.C. We all seek to shrink our youth justice systems and transform the remainder into systems that treat youth and families with dignity and humanity. Our work is premised on the fundamental understanding that our youth justice systems are inextricably bound with the systemic and structural racism that defines our society; as such we seek to change policy and practice through an anti-racist lens by building power with those who are most negatively affected by our justice systems, including young people, their families and all people of color. We also recognize that other vulnerable populations - including LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities and mental illness, girls and immigrants - are disparately and negatively impacted by our justice systems, and thus we also seek to center their concerns in our policy change work. For more information, visit www.njjn.org.

About MCYJ:
The Michigan Center for Youth Justice is a nonprofit dedicated to creating a more fair and effective justice system for the state’s youths. For more information, go to https://www.miyouthjustice.org/.  

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