Broward News

Thirteen Abuse Cases Reported at Thompson Academy Last Year

Thirteen separate cases of child abuse were reported at the Thompson Academy juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines last year.

Teenage boys at the 154-bed lockup said they endured a range of horrific incidents -- one was choked by a guard, another sexually assaulted by a male counselor, one forced to fight other kids, another deprived of medical treatment. Many of these allegations were echoed in a federal lawsuit the Southern Poverty Law Center filed against Thompson last October.

Yet in all but one of the reported cases, law enforcement officials dismissed the allegations with no findings of abuse, according to records provided by the Department of Children and Families.

The only allegation that was verified by investigators involved a 14-year-old boy who was restrained by guards during a fight with other children last April. While holding him back, the guards broke the boy's humeris, the bone that connects his shoulder to his elbow.

DCF received a new abuse complaint alleging inadequate supervision at the facility this January. Regla Cazañas said her 17-year-old son was beaten unconscious by other kids at Thompson. They were outside playing football, and the 17-year-old was gearing up to fight someone. A staff member tried to intervene and coax the boys inside. Suddenly, another teenager "came out of nowhere and punched" Cazañas' son in the face, a DCF report says.

He fell to the ground, where other boys started kicking him. He ended up in the hospital with five metal plates in his face. According to DCF, he broke his jaw and a bone near his eye.The case remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, the federal class action suit against Thompson, a publicly-funded facility run by the for-profit Youth Services International, is scheduled for trial in June.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab