Widespread Corruption and Abuse in Florida’s Juvenile Justice System
In July, four juveniles and one employee from Florida’s Walton Academy for Growth and Change—a facility run by a company known as Rite of Passage for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice—were arrested and charged for “lewd and lascivious battery” and false imprisonment of a minor at the facility.
Sadly, this is not the first incident involving minors being abused in Florida juvenile detention facilities: In April of this year, another detention officer at a Miami-Dade facility was indicted on a civil rights violation after one minor was beaten to death, allegedly, at the officer’s urging.
Facilities like these are supposed to provide “secure residential treatment programs” for minors under the age of 18. Yet, a Miami Herald series recently documented 10 years of widespread brutality, medical neglect, and sexual exploitation in Florida juvenile facilities. Documents, interviews, and surveillance revealed a disturbing pattern of beatings being given or ordered by officers and fights staged for entertainment in exchange for treats, sex between staff and detainees, questionable healthcare, and a culture of see-nothing, say-nothing.
There could also be links to 12 questionable deaths of detained youths over the last 18 years that have not resulted in any criminal charges for the employees involved–deaths that included asphyxiation, a hanging, a violent takedown by staff, youth-on-youth beating, and significant, untreated illnesses and injuries.
Encouraging Criminal Behavior
The state of Florida indicates that 45 percent of all detainees that come out of these facilities end up back in the justice system within one year, many as adult offenders. Specifically, there are concerns that these facilities could be grooming juveniles to become felons—including specific connections to teenagers on trial for murder who were allegedly groomed by staff in these facilities to become violent and commit crimes once they got out.
Negligent Hiring Practices
In Florida, there are also no educational requirements for working in these facilities, and having a violent or sexually abusive past does not serve as a bar to employment with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the private agencies that serve as compounds for these minors. Many prison guards who lost their jobs in prisons due to having improper relationships with inmates or sexual abuse are reportedly hired to work in the juvenile facilities.
A number of administrators have also been charged with covering it up and tampering with evidence in connection with these facilities. Florida sheriffs have found managers concealing attacks and widespread sexual misconduct by hiding incriminating videos and destroying written statements.
If your civil rights have been violated in a juvenile justice facility in Florida, contact one of our criminal defense and civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can help.