Broward News

Owner of Pembroke Pines Juvie Lockup Has Checkered History

A recent lawsuit alleging sexual assault and physical abuse of inmates at the Thompson Academy juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines is the latest in a string of abuse accusations lodged against the facility's owner.

For-profit prison operator Youth Services International, based in Sarasota, was once a subsidiary of Correctional Services Corp. (CSC). James Slattery, former CEO of Correctional Services, is now president of Youth Services. And Slattery has been making sordid headlines in the private prison industry for more than two decades. In facilities for immigrants and children, complaints keep surfacing.

Here's how the left-leaning magazine In These Times described Slattery and his company

in 2004:

Founded in 1989 by Morris Esmor and James Slattery, who ran an infamously decrepit welfare hotel in New York, CSC initially was involved in operating halfway houses for the state. Then known as Esmor, the company rose to prominence when detainees at a federal detention center for undocumented immigrants in Elizabeth, New Jersey, rioted over deplorable living conditions and abuse by guards. Shortly after, the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), ICE's predecessor, closed the detention center and terminated its contract with Esmor--which then changed its name to CSC and moved its headquarters to Florida.
Correctional Services quickly established a record in Florida that was less-than-stellar. The company ran a facility in Pahokee that was a national embarrassment, where teens were imprisoned simply to increase profit margins. As the Palm Beach Post reported:

The Pahokee Youth Development Center, began in 1997 with 350 kids and quickly became a nationally-known example of what not to do.  State investigators uncovered chaos, abuse and fights. The for-profit contractor that ran the center, Correctional Services Corp., admitted it held teens beyond the time they were supposed to be released so they could bill the state for more money.

Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 15-year-old boy who alleges he was twice sexually assaulted by a staff member at Thompson Academy. Yet state officials have told New Times they are not investigating conditions at any of the seven other juvenile detention centers Youth Services runs in Florida. Why are they giving the company the benefit of the doubt?