This week, an attorney from the Broward Public Defender mailed a letter to the state alleging misconduct at a Pembroke Pines lockdown facility for mentally troubled girls.
Among the allegations laid out were troubling practices of physical and chemical restraint, as well as an instance inside the facility when a minor was brutally knocked around by Pembroke Pines cops, a video of which you can see after the jump.
Although the letter addressed to Florida Department of Children and Families' Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo from the Public Defender's Gordon Weekes' letter is dated August 5th, the department tells New Times they only heard today about the possible problems at the Citrus Center for Adolescence Treatment Services.
According Weekes, the facility deals with mental ill minor girls, including abuse victims. "Some of these girls are suffering from audible or visual hallucinations, they're medicated, or they're victims of post traumatic stress," Weekes tells New Times.
The attorney first learned about the issues at the Citrus Center while preparing the defense of a 14-year-old girl who was involved in a scuffle with Pembroke Pines cops last April. The letter states the girl was "pepper sprayed" as well as "punched in the face with a closed fist" by police.
"There's no way to justify that kind of behavior when they're dealing with a mentally ill kid," Weekes says. "And clearly they know they're dealing with a mentally ill kid because they're in a facility for the mentally ill."
See for yourself.
But that instance was possibly just denting the surface.
"Female patients are commonly placed isolation for prolonged periods of time using a four-point physical restraint technique," Weekes' letter says. "Minor girls are routinely tied facedown to a bed for minor infractions, without the staff first employing less restrictive alternatives."
Chemical sedatives are also used on the girls in the facility, Weekes says -- to a pretty troubling degree. The attorney says the girls are routinely shot up with a chemical cocktail that renders them "unconscious and unable to recall events that transpired during the period of restraint."
The sedatives are so much of a go-to for the staff that the girls call them "booty-juice." The letter claims girls would get into trouble on purpose in order get blissed out on the the stuff.
Whitney Ray, the press secretary for DCF, told New Times that the department today received both the letter and a phone call to the Abuse Hotlines about Citrus Center.
"DCF takes all allegations of abuse very seriously and has launched an investigation to determine if abuse has occurred." he wrote in an email. "The investigation is open. The department will be working with the Broward Sheriff's Office and the Agency for Health Care Administration to get to the bottom of these allegations."
Calls to the head of Citrus Center were not returned. We also left a message for Pembroke Pines Police Chief Dan Giustino. We'll update the story with further comments if they come in.