Another Youth Services International Lockup Gets Dismal Review From State

Youth Services International, the for-profit operator of the juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines where teenagers allege they have been physically and sexually abused, has faced similar complaints at a lockup in St. Augustine.

Staff at St. Johns Juvenile Correctional Facility and Youth Academy used excessive force on inmates, failed to properly supervise teenagers who were at risk for suicide, and didn't investigate a sexual assault complaint, according to a state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) evaluation written last year.

Thanks to these and other problems, DJJ gave St. Johns a "minimal" rating -- one step away from failing. By contrast, Thompson Academy in Pembroke Pines has received high marks and a "commendable" grade from the state.

Yet the lengthy DJJ report on St. Johns  echoes many of the same complaints alleged against Thompson in a federal lawsuit. Here are some of the highlights from St. Johns:

--In November 2009, "documentation reflected four staff used excessive force and pressure points.There are still seven CCC reports in progress regarding excessive force and or improper supervision."

--"Twelve staff have had substantiated incidents of improper supervision and or rule violations. Five staff were terminated, three resigned, and four received additional training."

-Supervisors were allegedly "instructed to discourage or talk youth out of making complaints to the abuse registry."

- "It was noted on December 2, 2009 that a Department of Children and Families (DCF) caseworker called regarding a youth being sexually assaulted. This was not addressed until December 7, 2009, when a case manager asked the youth about being sexually assaulted, at which time the youth replied, 'not at this time.'"

-"The program had one attempted escape. Twelve youth were left out on the small recreation court unsupervised at the time of the attempted escape. One youth jumped the front fence, landed on the concrete, and injured both ankles."

The St. Johns facility houses both a high-risk lockup and a moderate-risk detention center for boys. About 82 teenagers are incarcerated there, compared to roughly 145 housed at Thompson. If DJJ knows Youth Services has done such a terrible job in St. Augustine, why has the agency insisted Thompson is running smoothly?

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