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More Allegations of Abuse Filed Against Thompson Academy

More teenagers have come forward with allegations of physical abuse and mistreatment at the Thompson Academy juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines.

Last month, a 15-year-old boy alleged in a federal lawsuit that he had twice been sexually assaulted by a counselor at the for-profit lockup. Now, attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center have expanded the lawsuit to include broader complaints about living conditions at the facility and allegations that multiple inmates were threatened and denied access to lawyers.

Five teenagers are now named as plaintiffs in the suit. According to the complaint, they describe Thompson as a "frightening and violent place."

[Inmates] languish in hot and moldy living units that lack air conditioning, and children with asthma are forced to evacuate to other living units where they must sleep on the floor.

Holes in the ceiling above the living and sleeping areas leak with water; and hair, bugs and other miscellaneous objects like glass and thumb tacks are regularly found in the meager portions of food prepared for youth.

The diet at Thompson Academy is so inadequate that youth do not even receive milk to drink with meals, and they regularly report losing substantial amounts of weight in relatively short periods of time.

One 16-year-old boy, identified only as D.L., alleges that he was physically assaulted by a counselor in the Thompson day room in late September. According to the suit, the altercation began when the counselor called D.L. a "fuck nigger."

D.L. responded that he couldn't call him that. The counselor than ordered D.L. to "get up" several times before  grabbing him by his collar, pressing him against a wall, and choking him.

Other guards intervened to pull the counselor off D.L., but the reprieve was temporary.

 "I know you scared now," the counselor said, before twisting D.L.'s arms behind his back and slamming his head into a metal door. "Tighten up, you pussy-ass jit," he yelled at the inmate.

Then he dragged D.L. down the hall, slamming him into the wall as he walked.

D.L. told his lawyers that he wanted to call a child abuse hotline to complain, but Thompson officials convinced him to sign a waiver saying he declined to call.

Youth Services International, a Sarasota-based company with a checkered past, receives state funding to operate Thompson Academy, along with seven other detention centers in Florida.

Tod Aronovitz, a Miami lawyer representing Youth Services President James Slattery in the suit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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