Spotlight: Mismanagement leads to deaths, sex abuse in Florida juvenile prison

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-12 17:04:19|Editor: Xiang Bo
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Widespread mismanagement in juvenile detention facilities in south Florida has resulted in a dozen questionable deaths, sex abuse of detainees and cover-up for wrongdoers, a media report said Wednesday.

At least 12 deaths occurred between 2000 to 2015 in the detention centers, where supervisors lacked basic management training and even encouraged fighting and bullying among young detainees, an investigation by the Miami Herald, a local daily newspaper found.

Detainees have long complained of staff turning them into hired mercenaries, offering extra food and other rewards to rough up fellow detainees as a way to maintain control without involving themselves.

One particular appalling incident took place in 2015, when 17-year-old Elord Revolte was jumped by fellow inmates as he was returning to his quarters from the dining hall.

According to close-circuit TV, 18 boys beat Revolte relentlessly, kicking and punching him for more than a minute.

Revolte died thirty hours later as a result of the beating, but no one at the detention center was held accountable.

"They treated my child worse than a dog," said Revolte's father, who brought his son from the Caribbean Island country of Haiti eight years ago.

According to official documents, testimony offered by two of the boys who beat Revolte claimed the attack was instigated by a detention officer.

Following the death of Revolte, local prosecutors launched a probe into the detention center and found that detention officers "likely engaged in the practice of offering honey buns" or other food as a reward to youth detainees to carry out physical attacks as a means of punishment.

"In here, a honey bun is like a million dollars," a prosecutor involved in the probe said.

According to the Miami Herald, a number of reasons are behind the mismanagement of juvenile detention centers, including low pay and insufficient training for staff, tolerance for cover-ups and faulty security cameras.

Detention officers receive a starting salary as low 12.25 U.S. dollars per hour to deal with youth who suffer from mental illness, drug addiction, disabilities and trauma, resulting in an annual salary of roughly 25,000 dollars.

Pay has not increased since 2006, other than a 1,400 dollar bump on Oct.1.

Inadequate screening during the recruiting process also led to the hiring of many former convicts who were charged with violence or abuse.

The paper found that a worker at a prison psychiatric hospital who was fired because of "an inappropriate relationship" with an inmate but then joined the staff of a youth program, was accused only months later of having sex with a detainee on the bathroom floor.

Investigators found over the past 10 years at least 1,455 cases - or three a week - of detainee abuse were not reported.

Local police found in August that top administrators of detention facilities knowingly covered up misconduct in their jurisdiction by destroying records and concealing videos.

Florida says its juvenile justice system is the largest in the country, with 3,269 employees and a detention capacity of 1,243 among its 21 detention centers.