PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When kids are arrested or convicted of crimes in Allegheny County many of them wind up at the Shuman Center.
It’s supposed to be a place not just to detain the kids, but to rehabilitate them.
However, some former and current workers at the Shuman Center said that’s not being done because management is not only corrupt, it’s creating an atmosphere that actually breeds more crime.
Now, those workers’ claims have prompted a county investigation.
They were hired to supervise young offenders who are accused of violent crimes including aggravated assault, rape and even murder.
But some former employees said they had to be on guard not only around the residents, but management as well.
“They’re corrupt. I mean, I’m here today because I reported two employees smoking pot on the grounds and the next day I get suspended for reporting that,” Christine Dillard said.
Dillard said the management at Shuman targeted her for reporting that drug use and that after her suspension, she was forced to go into the employee assistance program for employees with substance abuse problems.
Dillard said she was then transferred to the most violent unit at Shuman and was forced to quit after she learned of a plot against her.
She claims supervisors had bribed residents to assault her in return for a favor, which is a practice known as “snickering.”
“All I can tell you is that it’s a hostile environment and if you don’t fit in, you got to go,” Dillard said.
Brett Douthet said he too was referred to the employee assistance program after making a complaint to management.
“It’s bad enough when you work in an environment when you can get killed at any time. But when it’s a hostile environment with administration, it becomes too much to handle,” Douthet said.
Douthet said he was fired when he reported the abuse of a child to his supervisor, who then failed to file a report. That supervisor blamed Douthet, who said he was terminated.
Both Dillard and Douthet are suing the county, but KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan also spoke with a number of current employees who back up their claims and add others.
Some claim rampant assaults and thefts by both staff and residents are rarely reported to the Allegheny County Police.
More than 70 employees, which is roughly half of the staff at Shuman, have signed a petition asking County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to investigate.
“Any time you have that many employee signing their name on a petition, meaning they’re willing to put their name on a public document. It’s something you have to be concerned about,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also said the county has begun its own probe.
“We do have some concerns. I have concerns and we’re going to make sure it’s addressed. We’re going to make sure the system is being run right and if it’s not we’ll put people in there that will,” Fitzgerald said.
Shuman Director William Simmons declined to comment on the allegations and referred all questions to Fitzgerald’s office.
The answer Sheehan was given is that these claims are being taken seriously and will be rectified if they are come out.