Orange Chicken never refered to a meal served for troubled teens housed at Casa Isla on Long Island in Boston Harbor.
Instead, it was a code word some staff members of the locked residential facility used for degrading acts of ritualistic and often violent discipline.
Four former Volunteers of America youth workers contracted by the Massachusetts Dept. of Youth Services were found guilty of beating, sexually assaulting and threatening four boys at the Casa Isla residential facility on Wednesday.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke sentenced the volunteers on Friday following a month-long trial:
Silvio Depina, 40, of Brockton was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars.
Jalise Andrade, 37, of Brockton and Ainsley LaRoche, 44, of Roxbury were sentenced to a year and a half in prison each.
Hermano Joseph, 28, will face sentencing in early 2020.
“These verdicts reflect unconscionable behavior by adults who abused and violated the young people in their care,” District Attorney John P. Pappas said in a statement. “But the verdicts also reflect the courage of those young people, who stood up against threats and intimidation to disclose the abuse.”
Evidence showed that between April and August 2014, staff workers regularly ordered the boys to pull their pants down so that they could be hit with orange DYS-issued sandals on their bare buttocks in humiliating rituals dubbed “Orange Chicken.” They targeted specific boys, aged 14 to 19, who misbehaved, violated facility rules, or on the night before being discharged as a deterrent aimed at keeping them out of the program.
“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 in 2014.
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. Residents also participated in these rituals for fear of becoming a target and a recipient if they refused.
The Casa Isla program shuttered as a result from the abuse allegations. In October 2014, the Long Island Shelter’s 260 people in the 11 residential programs were evacuated after experts determined that the only bridge connecting the island to the mainland was on the verge of collapse.