Investigators reported that in May 2009, administrators at the Goshen Secure Center (GSC) – a maximum-security juvenile detention facility for male offenders operated by the Office of Children and Family Services – proposed semiannual social events with “an atmosphere similar to a ‘typical high school prom.’” The hope was “that the events would ‘motivate youth behavior’ and ‘help stabilize some of the gang activity as well.’”
The events were initially intended for only “Honors” or “Transition” residents, but those limitations were soon discarded. Four violent offenders convicted of murder and armed robbery, who had extensive disciplinary records of violent conduct, destroying property, possessing contraband and other offenses, were the only residents to attend the Winter Social Dance in the GSC visiting room.
Officials knew nothing about the four female guests who were invited by the residents to attend the dance, but transported all of them to and from the event in state vehicles. The report suggested that one guest was a suspected prostitute; another was 16 years old.
On October 18, 2009, GSC resident Braden sent his guest, Michelle, a $100 check, claiming that he “owed her the money” for unspecified reasons. Michelle visited Braden on November 7, 2009 and identified herself as his sister. One month later she said she was his step-sister. Finally, at the December 12, 2009 social she described herself as his girlfriend.
The social began at 4:25 p.m. and, “as evidenced by the GSC security video, the ... sexual activity ... began almost immediately,” according to the report.
Hopefully Michelle is neither Braden’s sister or step-sister, given what they were caught on tape doing. At 4:31 p.m., Michelle was seen sitting on Braden’s lap “with her legs straddling him. They are kissing.” At 4:44 p.m. they were observed in the vending machine area, embracing and kissing.
Staff member Veronica Haynes came from the visiting room at 4:47 p.m., spoke to the couple and returned to the visiting room. Michelle then turned her back to Braden, “loosening her jeans and lowering them in the back enough to partially expose her buttocks.” She quickly “pulled her jeans up again” and they continued kissing and embracing.
Michelle straddled Braden as he sat in a chair and he put his hands inside her shirt. Staff stood nearby but did not intervene.
At 5:26 p.m., Michelle again sat on Braden’s lap with her back to him. As she leaned forward, he appeared to kiss her buttocks. She then stood up and posed suggestively in front of him before straddling him again, “moving in a sexually provocative manner that could be described as a ‘lap dance.’” Meanwhile, staff sat just a few feet away. Twenty minutes later, Braden carried Michelle, “with her buttocks exposed,” directly past two staff members.
Another GSC resident, Arthur, and his guest Yolanda were also caught on tape at 5:27 p.m. “The couple appears to be engaging in oral sex,” according to the report. Between 5:46 and 5:52 p.m. they were involved in some other sexual activity, but the camera’s view was blocked, preventing investigators from identifying exactly what they were doing.
At 7:04 p.m., Assistant Director Gregory Joyner walked by Braden and Michelle as they embraced. Joyner was caught on video kissing Michelle on the cheek. He later attempted to justify his actions, claiming “that the girl was upset that the social was over so he kissed her to make her feel better.” He was subsequently placed on administrative leave.
The Commission of Correction report blasted GSC’s administrators, finding that “the Facility Director acted irresponsibly” and “the Assistant Director acted in a manner that was irresponsible and dishonest.”
Supervisors and staff were also found to be “irresponsible when they failed to stop residents and guests from engaging in sexual activity,” according to the report. “Although the line staff was placed in a difficult situation, any reasonable person would have recognized that the activity taking place ... was unacceptable in any setting,” investigators found. As such, they “should have stepped in and stopped the event as a matter of common sense.”
Commissioner Gladys Carrion, who authorized the socials, responded to the report by declaring that she had initiated disciplinary action against seven GSC employees, ranging from counseling to termination. The misconduct during the Winter Social Dance came to light after GSC guard Antonio Collado, 58, contacted the media; he was granted legal whistleblower status. At least one supervisor had reportedly tried to cover-up the incident.
Sources: “In the Matter of a Resident Social Event at the Goshen Secure Center,” New York State Commission of Correction (July 2010), available at www.scoc.state.ny.us/reports.htm; New York Post; www.recordonline.com
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