Kids Claim Abuse and Violence at Juvenile Lockup Thompson Academy

"They were definitely putting their best foot forward," he said. "Whether that's a sign of a cover-up or anything, who knows?"

Both Jenne and Garcia, who is a trained paramedic, questioned the official version of the fight that left Davie with five metal plates in his face and a jaw held together with screws. "These injuries do not correspond with getting punched [once] in the face and falling over," Jenne said.

He wants a more thorough investigation of all the abuse allegations at Thompson. "This company does not have a good track record," he said. "I met with dozens of parents. They're all telling variations on the same story."

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.

But he also said the decision to cancel Youth Services' contract is not a legislative one. It's up to Gov. Rick Scott and the new secretary of DJJ, Wansley Walters, both of whom have expressed support for cutting down on the number of juveniles incarcerated in Florida. As head of Miami-Dade Juvenile Services, Walters started a program to monitor young offenders at home using ankle bracelets instead of sending them to lockups. Scott's transition team proposed a massive overhaul of Florida's juvenile justice system, which would eliminate some prisons and put children convicted of misdemeanor offenses in community-based programs.

If their goal is to eliminate juvie lockups, Thompson Academy would be a great place to start, Jenne says. "It's already a lightning rod. You can cut 'x' amount of beds right here, right now."

Scott's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Davie is on home detention, recuperating from his injuries. Now living with his paternal grandmother, he spends his days drinking liquid meal replacements through torn lips, watching TV, and playing on the computer. Screws still hold his jaw together, and the metal plates in his face are permanent, Reggie says. She plans to file a separate civil lawsuit against Thompson Academy.

Her lawyers won't allow Davie to speak to the media. He was slated to return to Thompson in mid-March, but at presstime, Reggie was planning to fight that ruling in court. She says her son is depressed, "in pain, and pissed off, worried he's got to go back to that place and he's gonna get killed."

Every two weeks, she takes him to the doctor. Right now, Medicaid is covering the bills. She hopes Thompson Academy will eventually pick up the tab.

On a recent afternoon, she discusses her son as she prepares empanadas for the rest of her family in Homestead. As the oil crackles in the pan, she carefully folds a tortilla over a small pocket of meat, pressing a fork around the edges. The eye-stinging, mouthwatering scent of onions and fried dough soon fills the air.

Every few minutes, Reggie excuses herself to check on her youngest daughter, who's napping in another room. There's a pink crib in the corner of the living room, a matching baby's swing. On the wall behind the TV is a large, framed picture of Davie as a baby — dark-haired, with a cherubic grin.

Beside it is a photo of a young girl in a princess' ball gown, layers of pink satin cascading over the skirt, silk gloves hugging her arms. It's Reggie on her quinceañera; she was pregnant with Davie when the photo was taken.

Now her son is older than she was, facing an equally uncertain future.

"That's why I want these kids to learn," she says. "Accidents happen, you make bad choices in life."

She pulls out a small plastic bag that contains an olive-green wristband. It's Davie's ID bracelet, which he had to remove at the hospital.

"Keep the Peace," it reads. "Thompson Academy."

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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.