The death of Elord Revolte, 17, in a Miami detention facility “evokes many of the dark secrets of Florida’s troubled juvenile justice system, including incompetent supervision, questionable healthcare, willfully blind internal investigations and spasms of staff-induced violence, sometimes bought for the price of a pastry,” the Miami Herald reports. The lack of accountability has left children in peril, unfit employees in charge and parents frustrated, frightened and sometimes grieving. “They treated my child worse than a dog,” said Enoch Revolte, Elord’s father. “My child wasn’t a dog. My son deserves justice.”
Prompted by the death of Revolte on Aug. 31, 2015, at least the 12th questionable juvenile detainee death since 2000, the Herald did a sweeping investigation of juvenile justice. Reporters examined both state-run juvenile detention centers, jails for kids ages 13 to 18 accused of crimes, as well as residential “programs,” prison-like institutions where youth are sent by judges to serve sentences and receive treatment. They are privately run, but funded and overseen by the state. The investigation found that for years youths complained of staff turning them into hired mercenaries, offering honey buns and other rewards to rough up fellow detainees. It is a way for employees to exert control without risking their livelihoods by personally resorting to violence. Criminal charges are rare. Of the 12 questionable deaths since 2000, including an asphyxiation, a violent takedown by staff, a hanging, a youth-on-youth beating and untreated illnesses or injuries, none has resulted in an employee serving a day in prison. Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina Daly said her agency does not tolerate mistreatment of youth in its care. “The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has been and continues to be committed to reform of the juvenile justice system in Florida,” she said.