Kids Claim Abuse and Violence at Juvenile Lockup Thompson Academy

Snow visited her son every weekend. Once, she noticed a gash on his chest.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Nothing, nothing," he told her.

Rep. Luis Garcia Jr. toured the embattled Thompson Academy.
Photo by House Clerk
Rep. Luis Garcia Jr. toured the embattled Thompson Academy.
Rep. Evan Jenne expressed concerns after touring Thompson Academy.
Photo by House Clerk
Rep. Evan Jenne expressed concerns after touring Thompson Academy.

When pressed, he said that another teenager had choked him until he was unconscious. When he recovered, he tried to fight the boy who had attacked him. A guard stopped him and started "slamming him back and forth" on the ground, Snow says. The incident left a scar on his chest.

Such complaints may have been dismissed as spats between troubled kids. But soon, other inmates came forward with even more disturbing tales.

Last April, an unidentified 14-year-old boy was fighting with other children. Guards stepped in to restrain him and broke his upper-arm bone, according to DCF.

That same spring, a 14-year-old boy identified only as D.B. told Thompson Academy administrators that he was sexually assaulted by a male "youth counselor."

D.B.'s lawyer describes him as a gentle kid with a keen radar for bullshit.

One day, he was in the laundry room, washing clothes as part of his required chores, breathing in the smell of bleach and detergent. According to the lawsuit that would later be filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a short, solidly built 23-year-old guard cornered him and asked, "Are you going to suck it?" D.B claimed he refused, but the counselor forced himself on him. Afterward, he spat the evidence into a rag. He brought it to a female staff member he trusted and explained what happened.

That staffer reported the alleged attack to a supervisor, but neither of them wrote an official report, contacted the police, or called the state child-abuse hotline, as required by law. The woman later told police that D.B. hadn't given her a rag.

The next day, D.B. alleges in the lawsuit, he brought his complaint to Ferguson, but the administrator instructed him not to mention the attack to anyone.

A few days later, D.B. claims, an unidentified investigator questioned him, asking whether his attacker was circumcised. D.B. said yes and was told he "passed." That was the end of the inquiry.

Later, Ferguson told police that his assistant knew about the allegations but "basically did his own investigation and determined that the alleged incident did not occur."

Months passed, and the accused counselor kept working. In August, he accompanied D.B and some other Thompson residents to a local dentist's office to have their teeth cleaned. Shortly after they arrived, D.B. claims, the counselor told him to ask permission to use the bathroom. D.B. complied and came out of the stall to find the counselor waiting in the doorway for him. He asked D.B. if he was "going to do it."

"Do what?"

"Suck it," the counselor said.

The counselor then allegedly locked the door, ordered the boy to get on his knees, and shoved his penis into D.B.'s mouth. Afterward, D.B. and the counselor returned to his dental appointment. D.B. didn't report the incident until months later, and police investigated only after the lawsuit was filed.

Meanwhile, the violence at Thompson continued to escalate. Instead of learning to control their tempers and respect authority, as the program promised, the inmates lashed out at one another.

In late September, a 16-year-old identified only as D.L. got in trouble when he talked back to a counselor. D.L. was from Orange County and had been confined to Thompson for seven long months. A few weeks earlier, he had been accused of fighting with another resident. Part of his punishment was to have his time at the lockup extended. His patience with prison life was wearing thin. One day, he was sitting in the day room at Thompson when a counselor approached him and ordered him to stand up, "fuck nigger."

"Get up!" commanded the counselor, over and over, according to the lawsuit. D.L. refused.

The guard grabbed him by his collar and slammed him against the wall, twisting his arms behind his back. He wrapped a hand around D.L.'s neck.

D.L. gasped and struggled to fight back. The adult taunted him.

"Tighten up, you pussy-ass jit!" he said, using prison slang for a young wannabe thug.

He rammed D.L.'s head into a metal door a few times, leaving a clanging, ringing pain. Other staffers stood by, urging the counselor to "chill out."

He ignored them and dragged D.L. down the hall, slamming him into the wall as he went.

When it was over, D.L.'s clothes were ripped, his body bruised and shaken. He announced that he wanted to call the child-abuse hotline. But Thompson staffers tried to dissuade him.

"Calm down; we're gonna talk this through," they said, according to the lawsuit.

D.L. worried that his prison sentence would be extended if he ratted out a guard. Eventually, he signed a waiver saying he declined to report the incident.

Time passed, and no relief came inside Thompson's graying walls. The lawsuit says that after he was sexually assaulted, D.B. tried to commit suicide by drinking bleach and attempting to hang himself.

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Rhette Michaels
Rhette Michaels

Why doesn't the state put someone in undercover? It'd get to the bottom of the doubts faster than a dozen trips by "politickers". If the lawyers pretended enough to accept the case, they definitely ought to know what a order of protection is...that would get the offending parties away from the kids. Personally, I hate the thought of 'for profit' institutions. They've got NO incentive to get them out of the system while they're making a buck from them.


this stuff dates back to 2004(thompson academy). there exists info that clearly states that these issues and others were put in writing that are quite similar to what's in this report. the question to ask is/was DJJ in bed with the provider. there are people who know.