Detention center back on track after former guard's arrest

Detention center back on track after former guard's arrest

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) - After a rocky year, the White River Juvenile Detention Center finally experiences positive changes.

The new detention center administrator, Jonathan Pickering, hit the ground running in his new position after the center had no administrator for a few months.

The previous administrator quit after Independence County Judge Robert Griffin questioned her favoritism toward certain guards.

Captain Kelly Bradley's departure came after a former guard was accused of sexually assaulting an inmate.

Former guard Bradley Hopper was charged with two counts of sexual assault and two counts of exposing a person to HIV.

Now that the dust has cleared, Pickering is turning the detention center's reputation around.

When Pickering saw the job opening and the issues with the center he thought he could make an impact with his past employment at the Arkansas State Department of Corrections.

Pickering plans to make the detention center more of a rehabilitation center, rather than a jail.

He wants the inmates to know the center's staff is here to help and mentor, not just lock them up.

"It will give them a lot of hope, positive reinforcement over negative reinforcement." Pickering said. "They know they messed up and made mistakes, but some of them came from broken homes and we are the only positive example. The staff is fully on board with this."

Pickering is also focusing his attention on helping the staff with this change in focus.

He scheduled multiple programs to help train the staff to be mentors to these juveniles.

"They are not lost, there are people that care and we do understand they are kids." Pickering said. "We are also implementing more training for staff as far as understanding the teenage mind. What we might think as irrational and crazy behavior is actually typical for a teenager."

Pickering is not ignoring the issues regarding the former guard and administrator either.

He requires the staff to complete more training hours than before. First year employees will have 60 hours of training, supervisors will have 50 hours of training and all employees after the first year will have 40 hours of continued training.

Pickering also said no staff will be alone. He said if a situation does occur where a guard is stationed alone he or she will be checked on every five minutes.

Pickering said this is just one of many rules an administrator should have implemented a long time ago.

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