State Says Move to Close Thompson Academy "Had Nothing to Do With" Complaints of Abuse

The state has decided not to renew its contract to house juvenile convicts at the privately run Thompson Academy. But officials from the Department of Juvenile Justice insist the move has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Thompson has seen abuse complaints, shifts in administration, judicial review, lawsuits, haunting 911 calls, and years of scrutiny from this newspaper.

See also: this week's post about the shutdown;
our Thompson Academy cover story

In fact, the DJJ says, the closure is part of a systemwide push to move young offenders to smaller residential facilities. Spokesman CJ Drake says Thompson's operator, Youth Services International, is "certainly eligible to bid on the new programs we're rolling out."

So much for a reaction to criticism.

The DJJ denies allegations from the public defender's office that boys were routinely mistreated or neglected at Thompson Academy. Drake provided the Pulp with an independent audit as well as the results of July's judicial panel, which declined to take further action due to "the high degree of oversight currently being afforded to Thompson Academy and to its residents."

Instead, the department says, the shift is solely part of a decision to move toward smaller facilities. The 56 beds of Thompson Academy will be replaced by two 28-bed facilities, one for substance-abuse services and one for mental-health services.

The department told Youth Services that the nonrenewal of the contract in favor of smaller facilities is part of its long-range plan for residential facilities. According to another DJJ statement:

To procure needed services, DJJ has issued Invitations to Negotiate (ITN) for smaller residential programs. The operator of Thompson Academy, as well as other interested contract providers, are participating in the ITN process. This process is less prescriptive than a Request for Proposal and allows greater flexibility to determine the best method for achieving specific goals or addressing particular needs of youth.

The current contract expires on January 4.


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