ACLU and SPLC: Private Youth Prison in Palm Beach County Must Be Replaced with Sensible Solutions for Youth
WEST PALM BEACH, Fl. - The decision by for-profit prison operator Youth Services International (YSI) to no longer manage the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility in the wake of reports of violence and neglect at the prison must be followed by real reforms from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), children’s advocates said today.
“Ending the contract with this notorious private prison company with a track record of violence is an important step,” said Joyce Hamilton-Henry, director of advocacy for ACLU Florida. “However, kids being locked up in these facilities remains a problem, and if DJJ plans only on changing which vendors they contract with at the Palm Beach facility, they are simply treating the symptom and not the underlying problem. This cannot be the end of the story”
Although research shows that children involved with the law require small, community-based rehabilitative settings in order to successfully get their lives back on track, the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility is the state’s throwback to another time, at twice the size of most juvenile facilities, and with 90 percent of the children housed there coming from other parts of the state.
“This is an opportunity for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to undertake some much needed reform by returning kids to their communities and ensuring that residential settings are not only a last resort, but therapeutic instead of dangerous,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for Southern Poverty Law Center’s Florida office. “The last thing we need is for the same failed model to continue under new management.”
It was announced Thursday that YSI will end its contract. The announcement comes after a report accused employees arranging a fight that left one prisoner with a broken eye socket and nose. Employees were also accused of using excessive force in a February incident where a boy was punched in the head by an employee. Since July, nearly 2,000 supporters have signed a petition calling on DJJ to shut down the facility. The petition is available here.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.