Minnesota’s largest prison for boys currently faces investigation over covering up allegations of sexual abuse. A staff member reported the allegations to her superiors, yet nothing was done to address them. The facility never reported the incidents to the state authorities, which violates state law. When the state began to investigate the allegations, it appears the people running the private prison Mesabi Academy used their political connections to quell the inquiry:
After Mesabi Academy objected to a certain investigator being on the case, St. Louis County removed him. When the county alerted two other counties it had “health and safety” concerns about the facility, Mesabi threatened to sue. And shortly after a St. Louis County official announced the contract was ending, a powerful politician intervened on Mesabi’s behalf and expressed concern about potential job losses at the Iron Range facility. The contract was renewed.
n Friday, county officials said they had closed their six-month investigation into Mattson’s allegations without determining any maltreatment had taken place. They said they had insufficient evidence.
But St. Louis County also confirmed Mesabi Academy didn’t report several allegations of sex abuse to authorities. State law required the academy to report such allegations to St. Louis County Child Protection or law enforcement within 24 hours of being told.
In all, the county said Friday it had closed its investigation into 20 allegations of maltreatment over the past 14 months, saying in each case that maltreatment could not be determined.
In at least three of those cases, it was clear that Mesabi Academy knew of allegations but did not report them to the county. It’s not clear how many others it kept secret.
There is a big enough problem with abuse in juvenile prisons to begin with it. Private prisons do not necessarily improve the situations because they have a completely different incentive to protect their reputation. Many of these prisons are run by corporations that operate several prisons. One black mark on one prison can affect their ability to create or continue to operate the others. Continue reading