Former Southwest Key Programs Workers Won't Face Abuse Charges

By Matthew Casey
Published: Friday, March 29, 2019 - 4:35pm
Updated: Friday, March 29, 2019 - 4:36pm

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Southwest Key facility
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
A Southwest Key facility in Phoenix.

Former Southwest Key Programs workers will not be charged in connection with an investigation of whether they physically abused unaccompanied migrant children last year.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office took over the cases, in which videos appeared to show Southwest Key staff pushing and dragging kids, and prosecutors spent months reviewing what happened at the now-closed Southwest Key shelter in Youngtown known as Hacienda del Sol.

In an emailed statement, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the migrant children were not injured, there was no evidence Southwest Key workers intended to hurt the kids, and the children themselves did not feel like they were treated badly.

“My experience with the County Attorney’s Office is that it’s an aggressive office and if they’re going to make a mistake it’s going to be in favor of the child,” said Robert J. Campos, a former prosecutor who is now a criminal defense attorney.

In high profile cases, a team of prosecutors reviews all the evidence, tries to reach a consensus, and the County Attorney makes the final decision on whether to file charges, Campos said.

Geraldo Rivera, vice president of immigrant children’s services at Southwest Key Programs, also released a statement via email.

“The Maricopa County Attorney’s office has finished their review of the treatment of three minors at our Youngtown shelter last September,” the statement said. “After a full investigation, it was determined there was 'no evidence of an intent to injure children' and 'the children did not share any feelings of having been ill-treated.' There was also no evidence to prove 'the physical health and emotional well-being of the children had been placed in danger.'”

“Today’s news is an important step forward as we resume our work in Arizona,” Rivera’s statement continued. “We will continue to self-report any potentially improper behavior in our shelters so it can be reviewed by the proper officials. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made together in the last few months. Thanks for your dedication and commitment to compassionately care for the children we serve.”

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