April 10, 2006

Prosecutor Says No Charges Will Be Filed In Teen's Restraint Death

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

EPHRATA, PA--At the end of January, Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare issued a directive calling for the elimination of unneeded physical restraints in juvenile facilities. Under that directive, restraints could only be used on youths as a last resort, and never in a facedown or "prone" position.

A few days later, 16-year-old Giovanni "Joey" Aletriz was restrained facedown by three staff members at SummitQuest Academy, a 129-bed juvenile residential treatment facility.

Aletriz, who had bipolar disorder and asthma, stopped breathing. He died a short time later at a local hospital.

Last Friday, Lancaster County District Attorney Donald Totaro said in a press statement that autopsy results showed the 6-foot-1, 260-pound teen had an undiagnosed heart condition that might have contributed to his death.

Totaro concluded that, while "some may legitimately question the wisdom of using manual restraints on children", there was no reason to file criminal charges against SummitQuest or its staff because the restraint procedures had been approved by the state.

"I think it stinks," Aletriz's mother, Cynthia Allen, told the Lancaster New Era. "They're saying that these people did their job, that they went by policy and procedure. Guess what? No, they didn't. If they had done their job, Joey would be alive."

"If this had been performed properly, if they hadn't whupped his butt, he would be alive," she added. "It's a use of abuse, period. That's what it is."

Allen said she is considering a civil lawsuit against SummitQuest, and to see the use of restraints be eliminated there and at other facilities.

"As far as justice for Joey, that's the end that I'm working on," said Allen, who is also urging lawmakers to ban the use of prone restraints across the state.

"How are you going to run a behavior and anger management place when every time you turn around, you're angrily restraining children?"

The department and the Pennsylvania Protection and Advocacy are investigating the facility.

"Teen's death: no charges" (Lancaster New Era)

"No charges will be filed in teen's death" (The Morning Call)

"Mom Claims Son's Death No Accident" (WFMZ-TV)

"Call It 'Murder'" (Ragged Edge Magazine Online)

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Posted on April 10, 2006