For seven years, Florida taxpayers have pumped more than $100 million into the Florida Civil Commitment Center at Arcadia, a facility set up to treat the mental disorders of the most dangerous sexual predators. It was a place where child pornography arrived in the mail, stashed inside transistor radios. Bags of marijuana came in care packages, stuffed in peanut butter jars, and men brewed gallons of homemade alcohol under the noses of a shoestring staff. In the second in series of articles, the Miami Herald reported that violence and the fog of drugs and alcohol became as common as group therapy sessions. One man died after a fight over a bag of Cheetos.
Overcrowded and short-staffed, with less than half of the men actually in treatment, the center lies at the heart of what is wrong with the Jimmy Ryce Act. Kelly Summers, a former investigator for the state Department of Children & Families said, “Because no one wants to appear soft on sex offenders, no one wants to address what’s going on down there.” Employees struggle to manage a facility plagued with fights, substance abuse and suicide attempts. While the state has sent more men to the center, staffing hasn’t kept pace because the legislature refuses to provide enough funds. The number of clinicians also has failed to keep pace with the ballooning population. Nearly three dozen men who suffer from severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder receive little or no specialized treatment — let alone therapy for their psychosexual disorders — a direct violation of federal law, several civil rights attorneys say. The center, slated to house 460 men, now holds more than 520, creating more tension.