At a Florida juvenile corrections center last year, three teens suffered broken arms while being restrained by staff members, says the Miami Herald. During a “shoulder lock restraint,” a witness reported hearing “a loud popping noise . . . in the victim’s arm.” At the Florida Institute for Girls, a girl told authorities that she was taken to the “boom boom room,” where officers “slammed her head into the wall and struck her in the mouth.” She suffered bruises and welts. At another facility, a 16-year-old boy was placed in isolation for “horse playing.” When he banged on a door, guards “slammed him into a wall, a sink, and then to the floor.” The teen needed six stitches on his chin.
The incidents occurred at privately run youth corrections camps managed by a Coral Gables company that will earn about $35 million this year from juvenile-justice contracts. Premier Behavioral Solutions, with close to 1,100 licensed beds at 12 residential corrections camps — was criticized by a grand jury in February for its operation of the girls prison. Hundreds of state inspector general reports reviewed by The Herald show that other Premier facilities have been beset by problems. Investigators have documented the use of dangerous punishments such as “head-butting.” Choking allegations have been confirmed at four camps. Premier says the problems occur because the company deals with often-dangerous, troubled kids who can harm themselves, staff members, or other children if not managed. “There is no tolerance for abuse,” said a spokesperson. “When a staff member has been found to have acted inappropriately, we take action.” Critics of Florida’s highly privatized juvenile justice system say the state has allowed the welfare of children to be left to companies that sometimes cut corners to increase their profit margin.