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Amidst Increasing Scrutiny, Sequel Shuts Down Juvenile Treatment Center In Wyoming

Tennessee Watson

Sequel Youth and Family Services has announced plans to close its juvenile treatment facility in Sheridan. NSI Academy will close on March 22.

In a press release, Sequel said the decision had nothing to do with concerns about care or services at the facility and was made following an evaluation of viability.

NSI advertises services for at-risk youth and juvenile offenders, and mostly services children from out of state. According to data from the Wyoming Department of Family Services, in 2020, just three children from Wyoming were placed at NSI. California and Montana were NSI’s biggest customers. But California recently announced it would no longer place children in Sequel facilities. The decision came after investigations conducted by journalists and government agencies revealed rampant abuse and the improper use of restraints. Oregon and Washington cut ties with the company in 2020, too.

Sheridan residents have also expressed concern about safety and security at NSI in response to recurring incidents with children escaping the facility. Sheridan County Sheriff Allen Thompson said his office regularly responds to calls at the facility for runaways and fights.

“Our goal all along with the sheriff's office was to make sure that the staff and students at NSI were safe, that the students were receiving the care that they needed,” said Thompson. “If there was any way that we could assist in that process and reduce the caseload and impact on the community we were there to help.”

While Thompson has been vocal about the burden Sequel puts on local law enforcement, he said he’ll continue to assist NSI until its closure.

In the press release, Sequel said it would work with families, state agencies and caseworkers to transfer students to new placements. Sequel has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.

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