Several employees at the Tryon Residential Center have sought and obtained orders of protection against residents at the troubled facility in what state officials are characterizing as “push back” against recent policy changes at Tryon.
Edward Borges, the communications director at the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, which runs Tryon, said the state has been attempting to reform its program for troubled youths at facilities like Tryon in an effort to make them more rehabilitative. The state has also closed four similar facilities in an attempt to keep more troubled youths closer to where they come from, usually New York City.
“Tryon was a facility where a child was killed through use of restraints. Employees there punched a child who was in restraints just a couple of months ago,” Borges said. “[Our old system] utilized what’s called the corrections model with these kids. Basically we treated them the same as you would in an adult correctional facility, the safety and control model. But that doesn’t work with kids aged 10 to 16.”
Agency officials said part of the restructuring at Tryon has included reducing the number of residents there by approximately 50 percent since the beginning of the summer. According to the state, there are currently 12 female residents in Tryon’s “secure” facility, 27 females in the limited security area and 57 males in the limited security area. Tryon does not have a tighter than limited-security male area.
CSEA union spokesman Stephen Madarasz said the Tryon employees who have sought orders of protection no longer feel safe at Tryon because of the policy changes.
“I think they’re doing it because they’re concerned about the work environment and they don’t feel like they have the support of the agency,” Madarasz said.
Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said she asked Perth Town Court to grant one of three orders of protection issued by that court for Tryon employees. She said she is not attempting to influence policy at Tryon but has been forced to use the unprecedented step of asking for the orders of protection as a means of addressing an influx in criminal complaints coming out of the facility.
“My job is to prosecute these criminal cases to the best of my office’s ability and to protect the victims. I would not be doing my job if I did not recognize that there is an escalating issue at that facility, and that is evidenced by the increased number of criminal cases in the town of Perth,” Sira said.
Sira said there have been about 10 to 15 criminal cases involving Tryon on the Perth Town Court docket over the last several months. She said the orders of protection do not require that residents be kept away from the court-protected employees, but do provide an additional penalty of contempt of court if there are further incidents.
In August, Charles Loftly, a Tryon aide, suffered a stroke and died a month after police said he was hit in the head with a board by a teenage resident of the institution. An Oneida County coroner ruled his death was from natural causes and not related to the assault.
Loftly, 60, had been a youth development aide at the facility since 1984. He was in a coma in a Utica hospital for about a week prior to his death.
He was attacked on July 16 during an apparent escape attempt by at least three Tryon residents, according to an official who represents Tryon workers.
State police charged a 16-year-old Tryon resident, Randall Bell, with second-degree assault in the attack. Police said Bell removed a piece of wood from a desk and struck Loftly on the back of the head with it.
The recent troubles follow a 2006 incident in which 15-year-old Tryon resident Darryl Thompson died from a heart arrhythmia caused by stress after being restrained by staff, according to an investigation. No criminal charges were filed in the case, but in August the U.S. Department of Justice announced a investigation into alleged civil rights violations at the facility.
Borges said some of the difficulties at Tryon can be attributed to the need for more training. He said on Oct. 20 Tryon employees will begin a new training program aimed at curbing future violence at the facility.