MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Chehalis youth detention center employee arrested after being accused of trying to start riot

Mar 14, 2024, 8:00 AM | Updated: 9:32 am

Photo: Green Hill School in Chehalis....

Green Hill School in Chehalis. (Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Youth and Family Services)

(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Youth and Family Services)

Originally published March 12, 2024

An employee at a state-run youth detention center in Chehalis was arrested after being accused of trying to start a prison riot. She has since been released from jail.

The woman is 30-year-old Michelle Goodman, according to court records. She was booked Monday into the Lewis County jail on multiple charges. They include conspiracy to incite a prison riot at the Green Hill School, where she worked. Located in Chehalis, Green Hill is a medium/maximum security facility. It houses male teenagers and is run by the State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

Few details are available about Goodman’s alleged actions leading to her arrest. KIRO Newsradio reached out to DCYF for comment, to which it sent a statement. It read in part:

“We are aware that Ms. Goodman has been arrested. We do not have further comment on this matter due to the active investigation you mention,” the Communications Director of DCYF, Jason Wettstein wrote.

Wettstein then provided context saying Goodman’s arrest centered around a “one-on-one fight” that happened at Green Hill between two youths in early January. The fight was referred to Child Protective Services. Wettstein said both parties were seen by medical personnel and there were no injuries or facility damage.

“We can say that DCYF has actively responded to the incidents that led us to this point,” he wrote. “More generally, we have also engaged in wide-ranging efforts to increase safety at the facility, from better perimeter security, treatment and therapeutic programs, contraband control and more. We will continue to cooperate and collaborate with local law enforcement.”

Violence at Green Hill School

This marks the latest in a string of public incidents and allegations of criminal acts at the detention center.

More on Washington youth detention centers: Teens who escaped Echo Glen have violent criminal histories

The 2023 year included filed charges of 12 riots, according to The Chronicle, a Centralia-based media outlet. The largest of the riots included an Aug. 2023 standoff with detention staff involving six students. There was also a September incident involving nine residents of the school who were arraigned on felony prison riot charges stemming from a fight. Another brawl, also involving nine students, occurred less than one week later. That case ended with a felony riot charge submitted to the Lewis County Superior Court.

Last month, more charges were filed stemming from two separate fights that took place at Green Hill in Nov. and Dec. 2023, per the Chronicle.

Claims of drugs and sex abuse

Violence is not the only concern. Last September, the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET) raided Green Hill, uncovering stashes of drugs and weapons. The search warrant served by JNET was part of an ongoing investigation into drug dealing and employee misconduct within the facility, according to a KIRO 7 TV report. Two years earlier, a staff member had been charged with taking bribes in exchange for smuggling drugs into the building.

The facility also has a history of sexual abuse spanning approximately 50 years between 1976 and the present. In 2021, attorneys Darrell Cochran and Patrick Brown of Seattle-based firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC reached a settlement of more than $2 million with the State of Washington for 10 plaintiffs who, as teenage wards of the state, claimed they were repeatedly sexually abused. The oldest plaintiff was 18 and the youngest was 14 when they entered Green Hill School, each residing there for one to four years. All known survivors were between the ages of 15 and 18 when the abuse occurred.

The complaint alleged that Green Hill School “fostered a culture of sexual abuse and cover-ups” and thus “allowed and even fostered sexual abuse of residents.”

Another Seattle-based law firm, Columbia Legal Services, reached a settlement in 2022 with DCYF. The damages, totaling over $100,000 were related to three teens detained in solitary confinement and deprived of food, water, sleep, and access to bathrooms for hours.

Lawmakers call for investigation into the juvenile facility

The slew of incidents, and the recent escalation, prompted Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, to call for an investigation into Green Hill in an open letter to Gov. Inslee last month.

“In a single week in January, four students overdosed on fentanyl. More than one of those young men required multiple doses of the rescue drug Narcan to survive,” Braun wrote. “Other students who have not used drugs in the past are being pressured to use by those who possess smuggled opioids, Xanax and other illegal substances. Riots are becoming more common. And gang activity is rampant.”

Drugs at the school: Chehalis Police uncover drugs at Green Hill Juvenile Detention Facility

As of now, the state has not opened an investigation into the facility.

You can read more of Kate Stone’s stories here. Follow Kate on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here.

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