Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center Riot Guilty Plea, Troubled History

The mission of Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Golden is about rehabilitating young people who have had trouble with the law. Programs offered by various on-campus facilities include education, behavior management, and a variety of therapeutic treatments intended to prepare ex-offenders to become productive members of society.

But over the past decade-plus, those goals have been overshadowed by a series of disturbing events at the center, including a January riot involving Jaylin Coley, now nineteen, who pleaded guilty to second-degree assault yesterday, August 15. The incident suggests that Lookout Mountain’s problems have yet to be resolved.

Here is an overview of past issues at the center:

• A 2010 report on sexual abuse in juvenile facilities found Lookout Mountain’s statistics to be the worst in the state.

• Inmate Zachary Oliver allegedly committed 243 offenses before escaping in August 2014 by beating an elderly guard with a bag of rocks.

• A riot at the center injured four inmates and ten workers on May 1, 2019.

• A few days later, two teenage sex offenders escaped. They were then taken back.

• In June, a former prisoner said Westword that muggings and other violent disturbances at Lookout Mountain were common, drugs and sex were far from uncommon, and the system always seemed on the verge of total collapse.

• In the same month, violent offender Quinn Scaggs escaped from the centre, where he had previously injured an employee so badly the man never returned to work. Scaggs was finally picked up in August after participating in several whiplash moves.

• Later in 2019, former employee Kirsten Gonzalez was charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor for helping an inmate she had a romantic relationship with escape and harboring him for over a year before he was taken into custody again.

• Shortly thereafter, another ex-employee, Joseph Forrest, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child related to his possession of child pornography.

At the start of 2020, the Colorado Division of Youth Serviceswho oversees the center, is committed to enact culture changes in their system to avoid such episodes in the future. But despite these efforts, unfortunate reports of activities and associations at Lookout Mountain continued to appear regularly. In May 2021, shots were fired after an eighteen-year-old tried to escape. In August, the Denver Police Department confirmed reports that the five young suspects in the murder of seminary student Shmuel Silverberg had met while serving time at Lookout Mountain. And several staff members were injured in the January riot, which was would have caused by several inmates trying to start a fire by putting batteries in a microwave.

At first, Coley faced six counts related to the cases, including four counts of first-degree assault and separate charges of arson and participating in a riot. Yesterday he officially accepted the second degree assault beef as part of a plea bargain. It is due to be sentenced on September 26 – a development that will once again cast the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in an unflattering light.

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