Ex-corrections officer describes juvie center conditions amid alleged rape of 12-year-old

"In my personal opinion, they probably should bring the National Guard in," said Byron Williams of Detroit, referring to the conditions at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility.

Williams is a former corrections officer at the Hamtramck facility. He left the position in February 2023 after a year on the job. 

Now, he is sharing what a day after a state investigation report found several staff failures in the alleged rape and assault of a 12-year-old boy housed in the detention center in March 2023.

"I feel sorry for the parents and I feel sorry for the trauma that the kids are enduring because that’s going to stay with them for life," Williams said. "The biggest problem that I endured while I was there is they weren’t able to keep the kids inside of the cells… In my opinion, that's why kids are being assaulted, staff is being assaulted, the kids are being allegedly raped."

The 12-year-old boy said he was punched, beaten, and raped by other juveniles in the facility over several hours and during multiple incidents last year, according to the report issued by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. 

Other challenges the facility faced at the time included inadequate staff to manage the youths and subpar wages, Williams added. 

"Now they are paying enough money, but you can’t pay people enough to go down there and catch a criminal case," he said.

Hours after FOX 2 aired a story on the state’s investigation into the 12-year-old's alleged rape, another parent came forward to say her daughter was also sexually assaulted at the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility. She asked to remain anonymous to protect her child's identity. 

"One instance when she was coming out the shower, she was groped on all parts of her body," the mother said. "I said 'Where’s the staff?' And she says, they’re standing right there."

Her daughter has since been moved to another facility.

Williams contacted Fox 2 on Wednesday after seeing the interview with the mother. He says his former colleagues have also suffered at the hands of the detention center's youths. 

"They take over the building. That means assaulting staff, taking staff keys," Williams said. "There was an incident where a female staffer was pulled into a cell. She was working by herself; she shouldn’t have been working by herself. Locking these doors is nothing. These kids can outsmart any skilled tradesman, they can kick the door off the hinges… There’s no jail or prison that can hold these kids."

"Probably more than half of the staff has been assaulted, and the most common injury is torn rotator cuffs," Williams continued. "And I’ve had that there too – dislocated groin, back injury, you name it. It comes with the job."

Six suspended staffers were fired following the state’s special investigation report, according to Wayne County. They immediately implemented a corrective action plan. 

County sources also said conditions have improved, with millions of dollars pumped into the facility to add and train staff. The juvenile facility used to be located near Greektown but the building's conditions were so bad, the county moved the youth to another location in Hamtramck in late 2022. 

But the county and state continue to debate who is ultimately responsible for reform.

"I blame them both because it’s the state that’s over the youth and the county that’s housing them," Williams said. "Why can’t you two entities get together and make it right?"