The piecemeal approach to problems at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center has failed and now a complete review of operations at the Allegheny County facility is warranted.
The center has seen a litany of troubles during the past year, and the most recent were egregious.
A supervisor and six workers were fired last week after county officials said video surveillance tapes showed they were falsifying paperwork and failing to check on residents. In at least one case, they said a worker did not once look in on the inmates under his watch during an eight-hour shift.
The investigation is continuing, and more terminations could result, along with sanctions from the state Department of Public Welfare, which oversees the facility near Pittsburgh's Lincoln-Lemington neighborhood.
State and county officials are investigating the two incidents that led to the videotaped evidence -- one, an inmate's attempted suicide over Memorial Day weekend, and the other when a resident was being restrained.
County officials responded quickly by firing the workers, and Director William T. "Jack" Simmons imposed new rules so that each of Shuman's 10 sections now must call in to supervisors every half-hour. Unfortunately, the approach of responding after each new crisis occurs is not good enough.
Here's a sampling of the problems.
In August, an employee who was left to handle nine teens was punched in the face. That came a month after the state downgraded Shuman to a six-month provisional license because of, among other things, too few staff members and too many residents.
In October, a teen tried to hang himself and the incident was not reported within 24 hours as required. Days before that, questionable force was used to restrain another teen.
Mr. Simmons is correct when he says that all the policies in the world won't prevent misconduct, either by employees or by residents, but Shuman needs better management tools to address problems when they do occur.
County Executive Dan Onorato has asked Welfare Secretary Estelle Richman to recommend state officials or national experts who can help Shuman. County Councilman Matt Drozd called for both a complete audit and the formation of a group of administrators, elected officials and outside experts to study Shuman's operations and craft a comprehensive remedy.
They're both right. It's long past time to start holding administrators, supervisors and employees accountable and making Shuman a safe place for residents and employees.