Lawmakers weigh-in on conditions at Geneva detention center for girls

GENEVA, Neb. -- Nebraska lawmakers are expressing concerns about conditions at a southeastern Nebraska youth detention center for girls.

The concern comes as Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services CEO Dannette Smith ordered two buildings closed this week at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Geneva, which houses female offenders ages 14 to 18. Most of the girls were moved to two other buildings, and four were moved into a Kearney center for juvenile males.

State Sen. Pansing Brooks, of Lincoln, was one of four state lawmakers to make an unannounced visit to the center Friday. Pansing told the Lincoln Journal Star that some girls had been in solitary for five days at a time in rooms that had no working lights. She said one girl didn't have a mattress, just a wooden platform.

In a letter to constituents, Omaha State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh said the four senators who visited the YRTC-G have been in contact with the entire legislature and updated senators on the situation outlined in an account from the Inspector General's office.

Sen. Cavanaugh stated in her letter, The deterioration of conditions at the YRTC-G happened in the past 9 months. This came to my attention Thursday. I take my role of oversight with the utmost seriousness. And now that I am aware of the situation, I guarantee that I will be vigilant in the rehabilitation of the YRTC-G. Children deserve our attention and care. Children in the care of the State should be well looked after and not subject to life threatening conditions.

In the statement released Saturday, Sen. Cavanaugh said "Child welfare is my top priority and I will spend everyday of my term working to ensure that Nebraska’s children are cared for."

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