Fight Club: Audit documents Florida juvenile justice failures

Source: Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, January 19, 2018

Florida juvenile justice administrators sometimes fail to report the deficiencies of their privately run youth programs, and don’t always ensure breakdowns are corrected even when they are documented, says a new report by the state’s Auditor General. The state’s top government auditor reviewed the Department of Juvenile Justice’s oversight of contracts for 10 of 54 privately run residential programs — totaling $251.3 million in state dollars — examining the department’s compliance with state laws, as well as department rules and policies. The review, which is dated January 2018, looked at agency contracts for the budget year 2016. …

… The 21-page audit was released about three months after a Miami Herald series exposed long-standing, far-ranging lapses in oversight and accountability throughout the state’s juvenile justice system. The Herald investigation, called Fight Club, revealed a broad range of abuses, including the hiring of youth care workers with criminal records and histories of violence and sexual misconduct, the widespread use of unnecessary and excessive force, the sexual abuse of detainees and the outsourcing of discipline by staff members — who sometimes offer teens snack foods as a reward for doling out beatings. The series also highlighted a troubling history of medical neglect by officers, youth workers and even nurses assigned to youth programs. Lax contract monitoring was a persistent theme in one of the stories reported by the Herald in October. …

Related:
Fight Club: A Miami Herald Investigation Into Florida’s Juvenile Justice System
Source: Miami Herald, October 2017

… Documents, interviews and surveillance videos show a disturbing pattern of beatings doled out or ordered by underpaid officers, hundreds of them prison system rejects. Youthful enforcers are rewarded with sweet pastries from the employee vending machines, a phenomenon known as “honey-bunning.” The Herald found fights staged for entertainment, wagering and to exert control, sex between staff and youthful detainees and a culture of see-nothing/say-nothing denial. Herald journalists also examined 12 questionable deaths of detained youths since 2000. In the end, untold numbers of already troubled youths have been further traumatized. With a one-year recidivism rate of 45 percent, it is a justice system that is supposed to reform juvenile delinquents, but too often turns them into hardened felons.