Allegations Against Highfields

By: Beth Shayne
By: Beth Shayne

Tuesday, 18 troubled teens from Ingham County were removed by the court from the two dorms where the court sent them to live.

"The main crux of our concern is safety and appropriate treatment of youth," says Judge Janelle Lawless.

That treatment came into question after an incident Monday night. A boy says staffers took him out of the house in his underwear, threw him into a snow bank, and choked him. It comes after a hazing incident a few weeks ago where boys threw things at another teen in the shower. That, Highfields president says, was absolutely mishandled. This?

"I think something happened; I don't know if what the young man alleged actually happened," Jim Hines, President and CEO of Highfields, says.

"In addition to the county's investigation, the administration at Highfields is taking their own hard look at the incident. They've also informed the Department of Licensing and the Department of Human Services so the state can conduct an independent investigation.

"We have done this for a long time, we do it well, and if things are happening right now that are not to our standard, then we absolutely need to change that," Hines says.

Ingham County is not sure what they'll do now. Lawless says they'll tread carefully about re-signing a contract with Highfields. If these allegations prove true, they're looking for changes in training, and oversight before they'll send their boys back.

The Ingham County Board of Commissioners has already authorized their chairman to stop payment to Highfields if that seems necessary. Thursday, their judiciary committee will meet on the issue.

Highfields continues to serve the about two dozen wards of the state.


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