Broward News

Thompson Academy's Owner Faced Similar Abuse Allegations in Other States

Allegations that teenaged inmates were sexually assaulted, malnourished, and physically abused at the Thompson Academy juvenile detention center in Pembroke Pines echo similar accusations the center's owner has faced in other states.

In Iowa in 1995, a 15-year-old girl died after not receiving proper medical care at a facility run by Youth Services International, the private, Sarasota-based company that runs Thompson Academy.

Since then, Youth Services has been sued twice by former inmates at its juvenile lockups in South Dakota.

In 1998, six young men filed a suit alleging that a male counselor at the Chamberlain

Academy sexually abused them while they lived there. After denying the abuse accusation in court documents, Youth Services eventually settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

A decade later, a former resident of the Springfield Academy, another facility in South Dakota, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a female guard repeatedly sexually assaulted him when he was 16.

Some of the guard's attacks occurred in the victim's dorm room "during her overnight shifts, during which [the victim] would pretend to be asleep," according to his lawsuit. The guard also wrote letters detailing her "sexual desires" for him.

In court documents, Youth Services said an academy administrator had seen the letters and confronted the guard about what happened. She "admitted writing the letters and admitted the conduct described in them." The guard was then fired after working at the lockup for less than two months.Youth Services and the plaintiff agreed to dismiss the lawsuit last month.

The federal lawsuit alleging inmate abuse at Thompson Academy was filed last month. Youth Services' attorney has not responded to a request for comment.

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab