Between 2009 and early this year, the Minnesota Department of Corrections logged some 2,000 reports it refers to as complaints and incidents at the 60-plus facilities it licenses for housing and treating delinquents and other troubled youth. The department is one of two state agencies with a mandate for handling those young people. The other is the Department of Human Services, which licenses other, similar facilities. The two take different approaches regarding oversight and transparency.
Information about the reports the Department of Corrections collects is public, but the agency does little to make that record readily available to parents, county social service workers, judges or the public. This is in contrast to the way the Department of Human Services provides weekly updates to county workers chronicling events and investigations at the facilities it licenses for similar purposes. When allegations of maltreatment are reported at DHS-licensed facilities, DHS investigates and makes the results of investigations available on an online database, including every investigative memorandum, negative action order and compliance report.
APM Reports requested information from the Department of Corrections and created this interactive table to provide an easily accessible way to gauge the record at these facilities, tallying incidents and complaints from 2009 to 2016. This is the first time this data has been published. The department provided the information to APM Reports only after many inquiries and requests citing Minnesota's Data Practices Act.
The compilation shows that Mesabi Academy was the subject of far more complaints than another other DOC-licensed youth residential facility.
"Complaints" are filed with the department by parents, the residents themselves or others, and they fall into at least 18 categories and 20 sub-categories, including sexual misconduct, medical/physical, threats/abuse, discrimination, and alleged maltreatment. Some may be referred to county social services agencies for investigation.
"Incidents" are more numerous and are usually filed with the department by the facilities themselves. They likewise fall into a variety of categories — alleged maltreatment, attempted suicide, serious resident injury and sexual misconduct among others.
This table does not include facilities and programs not currently licensed by the DOC. Although two facilities, Mille Lacs Academy and Leo A. Hoffman Center, are not licensed by the DOC, they do have DOC-certified treatment programs. So information about those two treatment programs is included.
There are two important caveats about the data. First, the data as filed with the DOC is not always reliable. For example, in its investigation of KidsPeace Mesabi Academy, APM Reports found a number of incidents labeled by the DOC as "absconding from a non-secure facility" actually involved reports of sexual contact between residents. Secondly, the list of incidents and complaints in the database are allegations and not necessarily proven or substantiated cases of maltreatment.