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Published On Mon Dec 21 2009

Within two hours of arriving at Ontario's new "superjail" for youth last month, the 16-year-old boy said he received a standard-issue tracksuit and the beating of his life.

Accused of stealing baby formula, he was directed to a unit at the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre, which he said other inmates referred to as the "Jane-Finch block." He is from another area of town.

After dinner, his fellow detainees suggested a game of basketball.

Sensing trouble, the youth said he asked one of the two officers on the unit for a book so he could go to his room.

Instead, he claimed the officer opened the door to the fenced courtyard. A few detainees were already outside.

It was dark and wet. It had rained earlier.

A game of seven-on-one ensued, the teen said.

"They grabbed me by the door, threw me up against the brick wall and started hitting me.

"They were kicking me and kneeing me in the chest, ribs."

One of the youths, he said, pulled out a makeshift knife a blade attached to a pencil: "Don't make me have to shank you."

The teen figured the beating lasted about 15 minutes. It ended abruptly.

"Someone said, `He's bleeding too much' and they just stopped," he said.

One youth directed a few others inside to retrieve cups of sugar from the kitchen just across from the officers' desk.

They poured it on the ground to cover the blood, the teen said.

"Welcome to jail," one of the youths said. "They told me I could take a lot for a 16-year-old."

When the group finally came in from the court, the teen said neither of the officers bothered to look his way. He recalled asking one for a tissue.

The teen believes it was an initiation. The facility's managers, his mother said, disagree.

At shift change, the teen said he told a female officer what had happened.

"I was in pain. My face was the size of a big-ass balloon," he said.

The teen was transferred by ambulance to hospital, where X-rays confirmed a fractured nose.

He spent nearly a week in the jail's medical unit before being transferred out of The Roy.

He thinks the pummelling might have loosened some teeth because blood pools in his mouth and nose. He walks with a severe limp.

The teen and his parents said they thought carefully about coming forward. The boy said he's more afraid of what might happen if he doesn't speak out.

"Why would I want to find out one week or two months later that some kid got killed?" he asked. "By saying something now, maybe I can help somebody else."

When the Star relayed details of the case to the ministry for confirmation, a spokesperson said in the interest of protecting a youth's privacy, they could neither confirm nor deny the claims.

Diana Zlomislic