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G4S runs nearly 30 juvenile detention centers in Florida alone. (Photo: G4S)

G4S runs nearly 30 juvenile detention centers in Florida alone. (Photo: G4S)

For-Profit Prison Accused of Subjecting Juveniles to 'Disgraceful' Conditions

G4S already stands accused of human rights violations from Israel to South Africa to the United Kingdom

Sarah Lazare

A for-profit British private security firm whose human rights abuses have been documented around the world, from Israel to South Africa to the United Kingdom, stands accused by a grand jury of operating a horrific juvenile detention center in Florida where conditions are so poor, and hygiene so bad, that the prison "should cease to exist."

The firm G4S operates the Highlands Youth Academy in Avon Park, Florida, where young men and boys from 16 to 19 years old are incarcerated. A riot at the prison two years ago prompted the investigation.

In a report completed in late June and unsealed earlier this month, referred to as a "presentment," the Grand Jury of Polk County declared: "The existence of the Highlands Youth Academy in its current state is a disgrace to the state of Florida."

"The buildings are in disrepair and not secured, the juvenile delinquents are improperly supervised and receive no meaningful tools to not re-offend, the staff is woefully undertrained and ill equipped to handle the juveniles in their charge, and the safety of the public is at risk," the presentment states. "Yet, G4S has a 9 percent profit margin and expects to make $800,000 in profit this year from the operation of the Highlands Youth Academy."

G4S runs 28 other juvenile detention centers in Florida alone. According to The Ledger, G4S has a $40 million contract to run the Highlands Youth Academy for five years. The presentment emphasizes: "While the citizens are essentially being ripped off—the juveniles are being even more poorly served."


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