BOSTON (CBS) - Hundreds of teens under supervision of the Department of Youth Services have escaped from facilities over the past several years, according to records obtained by the WBZ I-Team.
While a majority of the youth return within three days, more than 200 people were gone longer than that, including 20 that were missing for more than three months.
The issue recently gained attention after the execution-style murder of Donald Depina, a Vietnam veteran and cab driver, in New Bedford.
The 18-year-old accused of the shooting is Alexander Mills, who had escaped his state-run group home in Fall River and remained missing for more than two weeks.
The WBZ I-Team requested records for how often teens escape from the DYS facilities, which are comprised of secured, locked buildings for high-risk youth offenders, and facilities where teens are only supervised by trained staff.
Since 2011, the DYS provided these escape numbers:
- There have been 445 escapes
- 93% of the escapes involved the "staff secure" facilities
- 7% involved the hardware secure facilities
- 233 escapees returned to DYS custody within 72 hours
- 126 returned within 30 days
- 44 returned with 60 days
- 22 returned within 90 days
- 20 were gone longer than that
Juvenile justice advocate Naoka Carey said the research supports keeping youth offenders in community-based settings instead of locking them up. She also said most of the teens are placed in "staff secure" facilities for very low-level crimes.
However, especially after the Mills incident, Carey said it is important to take a closer look at the DYS supervision program.
"I think it is cause for concern," Carey said. "I think you want to look very closely at that particular case and the decision-making that went on. Was that the right type of program to have that person in?"
A DYS spokeswoman told the I-Team the department is in the midst of an internal review that is examining security and supervision practices in its staff-secure programs.
"We are committed to making any changes necessary to improve security at our well-established community programs," said DYS spokeswoman Michelle Hillman.
Hillman said DYS has an apprehension team whose full-time job is to return youth to programs, and also works with local and state law enforcement agencies.
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