The phrase “Orange Chicken” didn’t mean dinner time for troubled teens sent to Casa Isla onLong Island in Boston Harbor. Instead, it was a code word eight staff members used for degrading acts of ritualistic and often violent discipline.
Seven out of eight former employees of Casa Isla, the state custody program for troubled youth, were arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday on charges of abusing male teens under their care, a scandal which lead to the program’s shutdown in April. The eighth member is expected to be arraigned on Thursday.
The State Police, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Department of Youth Services began investigating Casa Isla in August 2014.
Assistant District Attorney Gloriann Moroney said staff workers assaulted the boys, aged 14 to 19, in humiliating rituals, which they named “Orange Chicken.” The accused staffers allegedly ordered the boys to pull their pants down so that they could be hit with orange DYS-issued sandals on their bare buttocks between April and August 2014.
“Orange Chicken” targeted specific residents for misbehavior, returning to the program and also on the night before they were discharged as a deterrent aimed at keeping them out of the program.
The residents participated in these rituals for fear of becoming a target and a recipient if they refused, the DA said.
Other reports of physical abuse not connected to “Orange Chicken” were also reported. Almost all of the victims and witnesses told authorities that they were threatened with physical harm should they decide to talk about the abuse. The workers allegedly told the teens that they would be subject to abuse no matter where they ended up if they were in the system.
Wilkens Jeanty, 40, and Joseph Cintolo, 26, both from Quincy; Ainsley Laroche, 40, of Roxbury; Hermano Joseph, 24, of Taunton; Raymond Pizarro, 24, of Hyde Park; Emmanuel Fedna, 30, of Everett; Silvio Depina, 37 and Jalise Andrade, 34, both of Brockton face arraignment for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. In addition, Laroche, Andrade, Depina and Joseph face witness intimidation and threats charges. Joseph and Depina also face assault and battery and indecent assault and battery on minors over 14 charges.
Each pleaded not guilty to their respective charges.
The Casa Isla program was run out of the Long Island Shelter by Volunteers of America, Massachusetts, who DYS contracted. About 100 teens per year stayed at the 15-bed facility after they were sent to the Island through the juvenile courts.
“It is hard for us to imagine that this could have been occurring given the rigorous oversight by experienced and dedicated caregivers at Casa Isla,” officials at Volunteers of America said in a statement. “But it is our collective duty to find out what happened and we hope that every step will be taken to ascertain the truth in this matter.”
Volunteers of America said in a statement that they are turning over 2,300 hours of security footage and will continue to cooperate with authorities.