Broward News

Former Thompson Academy Administrator Was Arrested for DUI

Three years ago, signs of trouble began to emerge at the privately run Thompson Academy juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines.

Gordon Weekes, head of the juvenile division at the Broward Public Defender's Office, wrote a letter complaining that his clients there were showing up with "chipped teeth, deep cuts, and other injuries from fighting," the Sun-Sentinel reported at the time.

Four boys had escaped and been returned to the lockup by March 2008, and the state Department of Children and Families received 23 complaints to its child abuse hotline from the facility that year.

In February 2008, Thompson's top administrator, Duane Evans, was arrested and charged

with driving drunk and fleeing the scene of an accident. Yet he was not immediately fired.

"He's done an excellent job for us," Jesse Williams, senior vice president of Youth Services International, the company that runs the lockup, told the Sun-Sentinel.

By the following June, Evans had pleaded no contest to a reduced, misdemeanor charge of DUI. He was sentenced to a year of probation, and Youth Services eventually replaced him with a new administrator, Rodney Pegram. By January 2010, Thompson had hired yet another administrator, Craig Ferguson.

But the allegations of violence at the facility continued. Last year, 13 reports of abuse were called into the state hotline from Thompson. Law enforcement officials investigated but confirmed only one incident where abuse occurred -- a 14-year-old boy whose arm was broken while he was restrained by guards.

This fall, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit alleging that teenaged boys at the lockup are being physically and sexually abused. Youth Services has argued in court documents that the plaintiffs have provided no evidence of "actual injury." The case is scheduled for trial in June.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab