At Boot Camp, Smiles and Shrugs Prompted Punishment


“Offenses” as benign as smiling, smirking or shrugging were sufficient to provoke harsh physical punishment for boys at the Bay County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office Boot Camp. The Miami Herald reports that it has obtained documents indicating only eight of 180 instances of punishment at the Panama City camp since 2003 involved serious offenses, such as hitting guards, fighting with other youths, threatening to escape or trying to harm themselves.

The documents, use-of-force reports written by the guards, show that the overwhelming majority of the youths were subjected to ”takedowns,” hammer-fist blows and ”knee strikes” for such things as being unwilling or unable to perform rigorous exercises; exercising without sufficient “motivation”; being ”insolent” with guards; speaking without permission; breathing heavily, and “tensing” themselves.


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