A state official says five employees have been fired at the Nevada Youth Training Center in Elko following allegations that they mistreated students.
State Human Resources Director Mike Willden said the employees were fired and others disciplined for their treatment of students at the state reformatory for 160 boys.
Willden added that he's finalizing an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that outlines steps the state has taken regarding allegations of mistreatment of youths.
The federal government investigated the reformatory in February 2002 on charges employees violated the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.
Employees were charged with smashing the heads of youths against doors and throwing youths to the floor when they didn't follow directions. A teacher also was accused of kicking a boy.
"We are nowhere near where we need to be," Willden told the Legislature's Interim Committee on Juvenile Justice on Thursday. "We have a level of trust to win back. We terminated as many bad apples as warranted and disciplined others."
But he added he hasn't been able to recruit enough people to staff the youth training center or a similar center in Caliente that serves both boys and girls.
He said the state has filled 15 of 18 group supervisor positions in Elko, but has not been able to hire two nurses or a drug counselor.
In response to questions by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, Willden also acknowledged seven of 14 group supervisor positions in Caliente have not been filled.
"I am not saying close those facilities and move them to Las Vegas, but I am concerned about isolated youth training centers," Leslie said.
Willden said there are problems everywhere in filling nurse positions. He suggested the state could provide higher pay for employees in isolated areas or give them temporary houses as an incentive.
During Thursday's meeting, Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, said he couldn't understand why people would not want to move to his community.
Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Reno, expressed skepticism that sufficient changes will be made in Elko.
"I talked with the kids out there," he said. "I want to make sure we are doing the right thing by our kids."
"I have been asked many times if the message is getting through," Willden replied. "I believe it is."
He said there now is one staff member on day shift for every 10 youths and one per 16 at night. He wants to reduce the day ratio to 1-to-8.
Previously there were times when there was only one staff member per 30 children, according to Willden.