Florida Gov. Jeb Bush conceded Monday that workers have abused children in the state’s juvenile lockups. His administration announced major reforms aimed at protecting young offenders, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Among the biggest changes: a ban on certain types of force, including tying up children in a “restraint chair” and using wrist and shoulder holds that have caused injuries. In addition, the state set up a children’s “bill of rights” establishing rules of conduct for workers.
From now on, officials said, workers will resort to force only when children threaten to harm themselves or others or try to escape. Some employees have been too quick to use force when there was no need, Bush said. An investigation earlier this year by the Sentinel found 661 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect at Florida Department of Juvenile Justice facilities since 1994, the year the agency was founded. Records showed DJJ could not control its own employees or those of the dozens of private companies it hired to run most of its centers. Children were hit, thrown against walls and had their arms twisted until they snapped. At least six boys died from injuries suffered at agency facilities, including one who hanged himself and one who was crushed by a worker.