Broward News

Thompson Academy, Controversial Private Boys' Lockup, to Shut Down in January

Looks like the scrutiny and tales of abuse were too much for Youth Services International's Thompson Academy, a private boys' jail under contract with Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice. After a New Times cover story, the departure of an embattled administrator, and an unprecedented review by a judicial panel, the DJJ announced this week that the facility will be closing on January 4.

"Admissions have been frozen and the department will be conducting reviews on each resident in the facility. The results of this review will determine which youth will be transferred to another facility that will best meet his service needs," wrote DJJ regional director Lois Salton in a letter announcing the decision. 

For Gordon Weekes, the Broward assistant public defender tasked with defending many of the boys who have ended up at Thompson, this is great news. "DJJ finally stepped up and did right by the kids," he wrote in an email passing on the news.

But in a follow-up conversation, Weekes' praise is more tempered. "The reality is, it's typical DJJ the way... all this time has gone by with complaints about the program. It's just a little too late... [But] future children don't have to go through that particular program, and that's a good thing."

The academy had been plagued by accusations of abuse and mistreatment, chronicled in a record of 911 calls from the facility. As we described them in our blog post on the calls:

Records show calls for assault, dehydration, choking, stomach pains, seizure, vomiting, child abuse (both deliberate and "involuntary"), people being Baker Acted, and more.

More on the closure as we have it.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph