The federal government is well aware of safety and security problems within its Job Corps program for at-risk youth. A division of the Department of Labor, which oversees the program, even creates safety ratings for each and every center. They just don't share them with the public.
"It's like some ancient Chinese secret."
A recent Circa investigation detailed stunning amounts of crime and violence happening throughout the nationwide Job Corps program, which provides training and education for young people. Following our investigation, we spoke with former staffers at one center who asked not to be publicly identified. One of them said of the program, "On paper it looks great. It reads fantastic, but that’s on paper."
Reports from the Government Accountability Office tell a different story. A recent audit from the GAO found tens of thousands of serious incidents within the system, including assaults, sexual assaults and even homicides. The agency also found evidence of many incidents of crime and violence that were never reported. And now Circa has discovered something else Job Corps is keeping from the public eye: each center's safety rating.
"If your center is being run the way it's supposed to, you have nothing to hide."
Using student surveys that include 12 questions on perceptions of safety at the centers, a safety rating is calculated for each Job Corps facility. There are 125 locations nationwide. Students are surveyed twice a year to assist with calculating the rating.
"The Department of Labor told us that they use that to manage," Cindy Brown Barnes of the GAO said. "It's a management tool so they can see what centers are doing and are they performing appropriately.”
But how the centers perform is apparently none of your business because those ratings are not public, so prospective students or parents cannot use them to make decisions about the program.
One former staffer explained there's a reason for the secrecy. "Nobody would send their kid. If I know there’s 100 centers in the country and you’re number 89? I’m trying to get into the top five. It’s just like college."
And just like school, former students like Jiron Mitchell say you've got to do your homework. And if you consider Job Corps, he believes the program should at least tell you each center's grade.
“One hundred percent yes they should," Mitchell said. "If your center is being run the way it’s supposed to, you have nothing to hide.”
Circa asked the Department of Labor on multiple occasions to explain why its rating system isn't public. We also requested ratings information for Job Corps locations. We got no response.
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