State-Funded, For-Profit Juvenile Prison Sued For Assault

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) took aim at a Florida state-funded, for-profit juvenile prison after allegations of horrific conditions surfaced.  According to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of children held at Thompson Academy in Broward County, Florida, the staff at Thompson Academy routinely brutalized, chocked and slammed the children into walls.  At least one was sexually assaulted and after the abuse was reported administrations continued to allow the staff member to have contact with the child, resulting in a second sexual assault.

When the allegations of abuse first surfaced members of the SPLC went to interview children but Youth Services International, Inc., the company which operates the facility, prevented the children from having access to the attorneys.  The children were also not allowed to have confidential phone calls with their attorneys and were later questioned about any meetings that did take place by the Academy’s director and other staff.  Many were coerced into signing statements ending or declining representation by the SPLC.

The allegations in the lawsuit go far beyond even these horror stories.  Children live in hot and moldy living units that lack air conditioning.  Some children were even forced to sleep on dirty floors of other units after becoming ill.

This is a nightmare scenario funded by Florida taxpayers.

The prison industry is big business in a state like Florida.  80% of Florida’s juvenile beds are privately operated but publicly subsidized.  And when your state incarcerates children at nearly twice the rate of other states, contracts with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice are lucrative.  Youth Services International took $4.3 million during 2008-09 just to operate one of its eight juvenile facilities.  All in all the Department of Juvenile Justice has about $74 million in contracts with the company.

All this money goes to a facility with a history of problems in nearly every state it does business.  One state investigation of a YSI facility in Iowa found “appalling” conditions and resulted in a counselor pleading guilty to charges of sexual exploitation.  One facility in South Dakota currently faces a federal lawsuit alleging sexual assault against a teenager by corrections officer while yet another suit in Maryland involves the failure of staff to protect a child from his assigned roommate who later raped him.

The private prison complex runs in the shadow of taxpayer oversight but with the benefit of literally tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.  It is accountable to nearly no one and the results are always the same.  Whether it is in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas or Arizona for-profit corrections facilities never serve the public good, they simply serve the bottom line.  And despite the fact that they are sold to the public as an affordable solution to an overly-taxed criminal justice system, their services are of lower quality and for more money then traditional (and accountable) prisons and jails. 

Yes, correctional facilities are in desperate need of an overhaul.  But reform does not mean privatization, and as this latest lawsuit shows, nor should it ever in some industries.   

photo courtesy of MorrowLess via Flickr


Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Why not privatize the armed forces, congress, all police organizations, mass transportation services and everything else now run by the Government? Why not go the whole way and make everything a for-profit entity? Then all the Tea bags can sit there and enjoy themselves while the rest of us will regret we didn't do anything to stop it!

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal7 years ago

For-profit prisons? What about the youths who are incarcerated? Treating them as less than human, allowing sexual and physical to take place, might create adults who cause further damage to society.

Latonya W.
Latonya W7 years ago

SPLC are the real deal.......I have so much reespect for them and they will win this case in a big and fair way.......

Petra Luna
Petra Luna7 years ago

This is insane that our system keeps abusing our children.

David M.
David M.7 years ago

In Ireland we're only just about to introduce electonic tagging. As always our authorities choose the least practical / most expensive options. A recent Garda surveillance of a released prisoner cost hundreds of millions of Euros in the first week - helicopter, patrol cars and several officers. Admittedly, the released prisoner (Larry Murphy) was a prime risk of reoffence. How much does e-tagging cost?!!

Heidi H.
Heidi H7 years ago

Wackenhut who now runs prisons all over the USA under the name GEO group is now owned by a Danish and British amalgam called GS4 Secure Solutions. So now YOUR TAX MONEY is going to foreign companies to mishandle and allow sexual abuse to juvenile offender and adults all over the USA so Politicians can get kickbacks on the suffering and picpocketing of US offenders and taxpayers alike.

Think about what your nation has become.... DEREGULATION, PRIVATIZATION, AND THE FREE MARKET are all code words for the GUTTING of the USA. Stick that in your TEA PARTY pipe and smoke it.
Conservatism is willfull ignorance.

Heidi H.
Heidi H7 years ago

· Sub contract to American Institutional Services (AIS) in ’04 to handle the visiting park canteen operations under the existing Keefe contract (kickback monies paid to Crosby and Clark from the cash profits of this contract)[5]

· MCI Contract deemed “usurious” by new FDOC Secretary, who reduced costs associated with collect calls by inmates. MCI was giving 53% of their earned profits to the FDOC under the contract (percentage reduced by $10 million by the 30% reduction in fees).

· Award of a lucrative contract to an outside service to “split pills” and repackage them for issuance to prison inmates. Contract voided by Secretary McDonough in ‘06 ($11 million )

· Bush appointment of A.C. Clark (Crosby’s co-defendant) to the Judicial Qualifications Committee of the Florida 8th Circuit – that was responsible for selection of Judges for that Circuit – in the absence of Mr. Clark possessing even a high school diploma.

Heidi H.
Heidi H7 years ago

· Prison Health Services continually under attack for poor, inadequate or inefficient inmate health care services, treatment(s) resulting in PHS recently announcing it will not renew its contract with FDOC, citing higher operational costs due to outside medical services necessary for some treatments. (Award of this contract allowed PHS to start charging fees – or co-pays - to the inmates for medical appointments, treatments or other services)[3]

· In 2004 the FDOC under Crosby awarded a contract to a banking institution to take over the operation and handling of inmate bank accounting. This resulted in monthly fees being charged to the inmates for maintaining their accounts, regardless of whether they received, spent or transferred money into or out of their accounts ($4.00 monthly banking fees to inmates $.50 fee for processing each money orders and other incidental expenses)

· Ex-Secretary James Crosby and FDOC Regional Director A.C. Clark indicted for corruption and conspiracy involving privatized prison canteen services (admitted to more than $135,00 in illegal kickbacks)[4]

· Keefe Commissary accused of involvement in the conspiracy with Crosby. Inmate and visitor food products prices increased many times causing outrageous prices to both the inmates and their visitors.

Heidi H.
Heidi H7 years ago

Florida Private Prison Commissioner/Director guilty of embezzlement from Commission funds ($200K )

· Bush appointed PRIDE CEO Pam Davis to Florida Council of 100. In 2005 PRIDE of Florida found to be operating spin-off corporations owned by board and executive administrators illegally. CEO Davis and President John Bruels forced to resign and PRIDE ordered to terminate contracts with the spin-offs ($13 Million )[1]

· Aramark continually under attack for bouts of food poisoning and illnesses attributed to food preparation and products. Inmates assigned to work in the Aramark kitchens without compensation for their labor[2]

Heidi H.
Heidi H7 years ago

It has everything to do with political parties. The States that are the REDDEST most republican are where the prisions are most privatized. Did you miss WHY the governor of Arizona wanted to put all of the illegals in prison. HER major aids and people high in her government are lobbyists for the Private prison industry. WHO do you think gives those prisons corporations their contracts?
Brewer Linked To Private Prisons Housing Illegal Immigrants
AZ Governor Jan Brewer Awarded Contracts To Private Prisons Who Benifited From SB1070

Im sure if you did the research that you would find the Republican politicians in Florida also awarded the private prison contracts to these private prisons. I wonder what they got in RETURN?
PRISON PRIVATIZATION - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly… And The Corrupt