Parents ask for audit of procedures, better communication from FYF
Parents whose children are incarcerated at Fairbanks Youth Facility are planning a demonstration today between 11:00 – 3:00 on the corner of Airport and Wilbur in Fairbanks Tuesday, and later on Wednesday afternoon. They want a review of procedures at FYF, run by the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice.
Eric Foster’s wife and older son have painted signs they plan to hold up this week. They plan to stand on the corner of Airport Way and Wilbur Street in Fairbanks, a block from the Fairbanks Youth Facility, where their younger son is incarcerated.
“The conditions in there are really bad. The State of Alaska shut down the treatment wing. The treatment is arbitrary. They mistreat the parents because, I assume, they think that somehow by default, we're criminals too, ‘cause we’re certainly treated that way,” Foster said.
Foster says his family met other parents outside the facility.
“What you're seeing right now of the very beginnings of the sparks that were ignited last week when my wife and Bernadette and others who just met in the parking lot. And we say, 'God, we can't take this anymore'.”
Bernadette Demientieff says her son was arrested for joyriding, but was charged with the much heavier stealing of the vehicle and eluding law enforcement. She said it was very difficult for her and her husband to navigate the criminal system and even get information on what was happening to their child.
“We were not included in all of that. So when I was trying to tell him not to take the deal, they were meeting with him without us. They kind of scared him.”
She said she wants her son held accountable for his bad actions, but expects more from Fairbanks Youth Facility, which is not a jail, and is not part of the state’s Department of Corrections. Instead it is under the Department of Family and Community Services.
“And I'm not making any excuses for him. He should be held accountable. I mean, all of them should be held accountable for their behavior and their actions, but we shouldn't be treating them like adults. Um, we need to be giving them the tools, providing guidance to them, not just locking them up.”
Eric Foster’s teen son was arrested for wielding a knife in a convenience store, but charged as an adult with assault. Foster wants him to receive mental health treatment tailored to his needs.
“It doesn't matter whether you had community professional health workers that were doing really well. They cut him off of that. They have no priority with the individual.” Foster said.
Demientieff says the families want the facility to know they expect more access and communication.
“Just for them to review how the kids are being treated. Like I said, we're not trying to dismiss any of their acts -- for them to get proper representation and their rights as youth be respected,” Demientieff said.
She says the demonstration is for state officials to take notice, but she hopes the incarcerated youth will see it as positive role modeling.
“Because a lot of them in there, they don't think that we care. Um, they're not getting our phone calls. They're not telling them we're calling. I don't want my son to feel that I'm just sitting out here waiting for him, and allow people to bully him and disrespect his basic human rights. As parents, we have to stand up for our kids, especially when there's other adults doing this.”
Calls to Fairbanks Youth Facility and questions about routines and standards were sent to the Alaska Department of Family and Community Services too late Monday for them to give a response. We hope to follow up later this week.
The parent group plans to demonstrate between 11:00 – 3:00 on Tuesday, and later Wednesday afternoon.