Monday, July 16, 2007

More Abuse at Florida DJJ: Joann Bridges Academy

Reporter: Candy Gilman
Telephone: xxxxxxxx
Relation: Relative/Guardian
Youth: S.F.
JPO_or_Staff: Ms. Wilson
Where: Other DJJ facility
When: 05/16/07
Date: Friday, July 13, 2007
Time: 03:31 PM


My daughter was being screamed at and told to stand still. (She has ADHD, so standing still and paying attention is difficult). She was trying to control herself and stood still with her hands in a ball (or fists as they described), and heard a voice to her side and turned her head to look and Ms. Wilson, threw my daughter to the floor, giving her a black eye from the floor! and shoved her arm up to her back.

My daughter was taken by surprise without warning and as a result, she lost control of her bodily functions. Following the incident it was Ms. Wilson that brought her to the bathroom to clean up and she was yelled at to hurry up and had 5 minutes to clean up. After my daugher returned from the bathroom, in pajama's, Ms. Wilson was laughing and bragging to the other kids and staff members that she made my daughter "piss and shit herself."

Following the incident, students continued to make fun of my daughter and the staff let it continue. No one contacted me regarding this incident, my daughter reported it to DCF abuse hotline and is was supposedly sent to the CCC, a department in the Inspector General's office for investigation. I was not made aware of this incident until my weekly visit with my daughter and I saw her black eye! No one took pictures, so I called the local sheriff's office to take picture of my daughter's eye.

On the day of my visit, I was so angry and Ms. Wilson knew this, so she continued to stare at me and laugh with other staff members while she was looking at me and my daughter. She then attempted to approach me, while laughing and I told her, "you better not even think about coming near me right now." She continued to approach me anyway and I told her to get away from us and she refused to leave the table and then started talking to my daughter. I had to yell for a staff member to come remove her immediately and they did. I was angry and my first thought was to grab my daughter and get out of there immediately, but I couldn't. I asked the staff member, Ms. Brunfield, when were they going to tell me that they gave my daughter a black eye. She replied with a sarcastic tone, "she has a black eye? Oh, Shawna, when did that happen?"

To make a long story short, they are refusing to let me have a copy of the video, which they have now reported three different accounts of what happened trying to say that Ms. Wilson had complete right to do this to my child! After some time of my pursuing answer's and going through too many different departments to have something done, Ms. Wilson decided to resign from her position at Joann Bridges Academy singling out my daughter as the cause of why she is quitting.

About a month later another child was dragged out of the bathroom by her neck, where camera's are not located, by another staff member because she was putting on deodorant and the staff member told her to get out of the bathroom immediately! My daughter witnessed that as well and that has been reported to DCF.

By the way, the DCF investigator never contacted me either and I had to track her down. When I did track her down, she informed me that she had not even seen the video yet, "because it wasn't available the day she was there because there was a meeting going on in the video room," but that she was going to find that Ms. Wilson restrained my daughter and did not do anything wrong. I specifically pointed out to her that she had a conclusion before she had even begun her INVESTIGATION! Then she told me she had 45 days to investigate, I don't even know if she ever completed the investigation because no one has contacted me about it, but clearly, DCF does not do a good job investigating child abuse cases on children in DJJ programs!

In addition:

By the way, while I was reading Christopher’s story, I realized that Joann Bridges also has a policy of letting the girls only go to the bathroom once every so many hours. Is this legal? Not only that, but my daughter has gained a lot of weight in that place because the only food that I know she eats is chicken wings and fried chicken! She has a history of hypothyroid and I am concerned about her health and with a diet of greasy fried foods, those kids must have to use the bathroom quite a bit!



Date: 7/13/2007 4:00:50 PM


Subject: J4K Incident Report [DJJ Abuse of S.F. at Joann Bridges Academy]


Please read below message that I just received from the mother of a child in your custody at Joann Bridges Academy, S.F. Mother Candy Gilman alleges numerous abuses and misconduct by DJJ contracted staff, as well as numerous concerns about lack of follow-up with her complaints.

Please provide to me the DJJ IG Case # assigned to this investigation.
Cathy Corry -

Information re Joann Bridges Academy

Madison County, Circuit 3
950 S.W. Greenville Hills Road, Greenville, Florida 32331
Phone: (850) 948-4220 • Fax: (850) 948-4227


From: Dawn Chase

To:, ,
Subject:Abuse at Joann Bridges
Date:Sunday, July 15, 2007 9:43:41 PM

Dear Secretary McNeil,

My name Dawn Chase, and I am an advocate for Children in DJJ custody. I am also the mother of a child that was severely abused while in the custody of DJJ. So, I know of the many atrocities that are in these facilities. I am also involved in bringing about awareness of the abuse that children are currently suffering while in Florida's DJJ Facilities. You may view many of the problems noted on, and also

We have recently received a report of abuse at the Joann Bridges Academy in Greenville, Florida. Below is an email sent to Secretary Walt McNeil. I would also like to stress that the staff member that was involved in assaulting This young girl, has resigned from Joann Bridges, yet now is working on the same campus at Greenville Hills Academy.

I would like to point out that THIS is the very reason why DJJ will never be reformed and all the abuse to come to a stop!

These abusive staff get away with their actions, and are then found elsewhere in another DJJ facility. We, at Justice4kids, and the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA), demand that this staff member be bought to justice, and removed from ever having anymore Contact with any child in the State of Florida. This staff member is guilty of Felony child abuse, and battery.

Staff need to know that they have NO RIGHT to assault any child under their care!! May I also remind you, of yours, DJJ Secretary Walt McNeil's speech, 2/1/07. You are all in fact public servants... You work for the STATE.. You work for ME, a tax paying Citizen of The State of Florida. Here are some key phrases that I believe you and your fellow employees are having problems adhering to:

"reach out to our stakeholders and communities in a spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration."

"As Governor Crist so eloquently has stated, this is the people's work, and we are public servants first and foremost."

"We will abide by the principles and laws of open government . . ."

"we will be successful only if we work cooperatively with providers, parents, advocacy groups, citizens, local and state agencies . . ."

"I welcome your ideas on ways to encourage local citizen interaction"

If you are to "abide by the principles and the laws of open government... This also means that YOU nor your fellow DJJ employees are immune from the laws that all of us have to follow.. This means they are not permitted to BEAT UP ANYONE... This is battery!!

For an Adult or Caretaker to BEAT UP A MINOR CHILD, is FELONY Child abuse!

Those that Do this, need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law!!

Below is ANOTHER INCIDENT among MANY!! HOW will you protect this child??? How will you Answer to her Mother as to why her child was harmed??? There is NO EXCUSE for any of this! I have been involved with trying to bring about awareness and reform with DJJ now for over 5 years!!! I have not seen any changes whatsoever!

Please review this report, and please provide the # of the IG's investigation. Also, please provide the proper investigation report of this staff known as Ms. Wilson. Thank you.

Dawn Chase

Dear Mr. McNeil,

When I sent you the last email about this Ms. Wilson that assaulted S.F. at Joann Bridges, it was FACT that this type of thing goes on constantly. Apparently it is a wide spread problem. The staff quit one place, then migrate to another place...

BAD STAFF .. Staff that should be prosecuted for the assaults and abuse that they commit on our children. Here is a fantastic fact based news article concerning DJJ. I'm sure you now can realize why we as parents, and concerned Citizens of Florida are now demanding that these Abusive Staff be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

December 2004 Palm Beach Article

Dawn Chase
___________________________________________ (Isabelle Zehnder)

Date:Saturday, July 14, 2007 11:29:50 AM

Hi Katie,

I want to introduce myself. I am the Founder and President of the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA), a Child and Family Advocacy organization in Washington State. CAICA provides an informational and educational website Also, a great website to look at is

I have been working with Dawn Chase, Cathy Corry, and Mark Caldwell for quite some time now. I have learned and reported about the atrocities that are happening to children in the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities on my website and through Blogging. From children being beaten, to broken noses, to broken bones - it just doesn't seem to stop.

We believed a few individuals at DJJ were going to be willing to work with us to make changes in the system. It appears they have cut off most communications with us, and have not responded to my recent e-mails. They agreed to a phone conference with me but have never responded to my e-mail where I tried to schedule this meeting.

I believe that in order to effect change the story is going to have to be told. I believe I can speak for Dawn, Cathy, and Mark when I say we are all willing to assist you in bringing this issue to light. If this is not something you can do, could you please let us know and also let us know if you have any suggestions as to who might be able to help us.

Children deserve better than this. Parents should not have to worry that their children, who are ripped from them, are being abused and neglected by the very people who are supposed to be there to care for and rehabilitate them. I am going to provide you links to Blogs I have created with information about DJJ.

Also, please understand we are not radical groups wanting the system shut down. We simply do not approve of the abuse going on there. We understand a need for rehabilitation for some kids. However, DJJ has been notorious for locking children up for years for minor infractions such as a 12-year old having a school yard fight who was then incarcerated for 5 years and lost his entire youth! (Chris Sholly)

And another 13-year old boy who was incarcerated for an issue that should, in my opinion, have been dealt with through a therapist at home with his family. Instead DJJ got a hold of this boy and has wrongfully kept him incarcerated for 5 years - sadly, this boy now sits in adult jail for a crime he did not commit. He has been accused of abusing staff when in fact it was staff who abused him. There is a video to prove it, and witnesses. (Justin Caldwell) There are many more stories where those came from.


My Blog praising Walt McNeil for wanting to help us - now, we fear his comments were empty and that he has not upheld his promises to us that he was reforming Dozier and that he wanted abuse to stop:

About attorney Rick Reno who is representing some of these kids:

More claims of abuse at Greenville Hills

Chris Sholly's story including his diary

Rex Uberman "hailing change" - now he's cut off communications with us

Article rating DJJ facilities

Again a blog about Walter McNeil when we thought he was going to help

Video of Justin Caldwell's abuse - can't see much, but you can see all the towels it takes to wipe the blood up off the floor - starts at 17:52:58

A call to staff to come forward and report abuse

Another child inappropriately placed into the DJJ system, Marena

Another call for help

Abuse at DJJ Dozier School for Boys

Letter from Mark Caldwell

Again, there is a lot of wonderful information at

Thank you,


Isabelle Zehnder
Founder and President
Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse (CAICA)
Tel: 360-369-6547
Fax: 484-991-1828

Madison County, Circuit 3
950 S.W. Greenville Hills Road, Greenville, Florida 32331
Phone: (850) 948-4220 • Fax: (850) 948-4227

For questions, please contact the facility directly using the phone number or e-mail address above.

Moderate Risk Female | Staff Secure

Facility Administrator Tuwollar Mobley


JoAnn Bridges Academy is a moderate risk facility serving the state’s adolescent females. JoAnn Bridges Academy emphasizes a strong behavioral approach, which is augmented by a level system that stresses responsible decision-making, appropriate social skills, and proper interaction with authority. The facility utilizes the Arise life and social skill curriculum to enhance basic life and social skill development. It also emphasizes academics, employment abilities, and conflict resolution. Program residents participate in group activities that address emotions management, problem solving, substance abuse, victim awareness, and parenting. Clothing is provided to the youth. The average length of stay is 6 to 9 months.

Contract Provider: Youth Services International Inc. (click on program name to access provider website)
Operating Capacity: 30, Serves Ages 12 - 18

Program Monitor: Stuart Wolcott
Telephone Number: (850) 413-9483
Fax Number: (850) 414-7795
E-Mail Address:

Florida's juvenile justice system: Revolving door for fired workers
By Kathleen Chapman and William M. Hartnett

Palm Beach Post Staff Writers

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Jimmy Haynes lost his job as a "behavioral specialist" at a juvenile drug treatment center for punching a 15-year-old in the face.

Nine days after Haynes was fired from the privately operated center in Orlando, he was hired by a state-run juvenile detention center less than 15 miles away. Haynes worked there for seven weeks before supervisors at his new job realized their mistake.

He wasn't the only one.

A Palm Beach Post review of records from the state and 40 of its private contractors uncovered at least 200 employees hired at juvenile justice centers in recent years after they were fired from similar jobs for violence, misconduct or incompetence.

The taxpayer-funded privately operated companies that run the bulk of Florida's juvenile justice system hired workers who had sexual relationships with teenagers they were supposed to protect. They hired workers who kicked, punched, choked, tackled and head-butted teens in their care.

Supervisors across the state repeatedly checked "do not rehire" and "not eligible for rehire" in the files of employees fired for such offenses. But managers at other centers never knew of those histories.

Some never bothered to check with past employers; others were stymied by companies that refused to blow the whistle on even the very worst workers. Many companies simply broke the law by withholding or losing personnel files that are part of the public record.

And a few companies knew about their workers' histories but were so desperate to find people willing to work for $8 to $9 an hour that they looked the other way.

The result, critics say, is a culture of violence and neglect that undermines the juvenile system's essential mission: preventing today's teen offenders from becoming adult felons.

Here's how the state and its private contractors enable bad employees to get juvenile justice jobs again and again:

• Even though state laws require them to open their employees' files, some contractors cling to a corporate culture of secrecy, giving neutral references.

• State investigations of employee misconduct can drag on for three months or more, allowing bad workers to find new jobs while their cases sit unresolved.

• Each of the state's numerous private contractors operates in isolation, without access to a central database of juvenile justice workers' job histories.

Officials from Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice say that the more than 200 fired-and-rehired employees are a small percentage of the thousands who work in the system, but it has tightened its screening standards anyway in an effort to weed out bad employees.

Contractors run about nine in 10 centers

The state's sprawling juvenile justice system includes 26 detention centers that house young offenders shortly after they are arrested. The teens are then sentenced by a judge to one of 154 longer-term programs, ranging from wilderness camps to maximum security facilities that look like prisons.

After the youth crime rate soared in the early 1990s, Florida built new facilities, lengthened teens' sentences and expanded treatment options.

To cut costs, Florida outsourced nearly all of its residential programs. The state now has one of the highest rates of privatization in the country — about nine in 10 centers are managed by contractors.

Some are run by county sheriff's offices, others by large nonprofit foundations. And some are managed by publicly traded corporations that answer not just to the state but to shareholders who expect them to wring profits from the tough business of treating troubled kids.

Last year, a series of very public failures in Florida's programs for young offenders led to the dismissal of top state officials and calls for reform.

A grand jury investigated abuses at the Florida Institute for Girls, a maximum-security prison for teenage offenders in suburban West Palm Beach. One worker was criminally charged for having sex with two teen inmates, and another was arrested for assault. In four separate incidents, workers broke girls' arms in violent restraints.

Two of the abusive employees already had been fired from previous juvenile justice jobs.

The system's new leaders promised reform, saying they will not tolerate such incidents. But personnel files obtained by The Post show that for years, private contractors have hired employees with records of serious misconduct.

Securicor New Century hired Marvin Thomas at a facility outside Okeechobee 53 days after he was fired from another center for lying about abuse.

Investigators said Thomas attempted to cover up an incident in which a co-worker threw a boy to the ground and beat him. Thomas lied to his bosses, according to the previous company's records, and tried to intimidate several boys into not telling anyone what happened. Thomas did not return phone calls from The Post.

Securicor President and CEO Gail Browne said her company hired Thomas just as it was taking over from a previous contractor and that his reference checks may have been lost in the transition. Thomas did not have any problems while working with Securicor and left to serve in the military.

But had the company known his history, Browne said, it's unlikely it would have hired Thomas.

Outsourcing a site can lower costs up to 10%

To state officials, the arithmetic of privatizing juvenile justice is irresistibly simple. Contractors compete to offer the lowest price, and a treatment center can be outsourced for as much as 10 percent less than when it was government-operated.

In nearly every case, the cuts are shouldered by rank-and-file workers, who have lost pension plans and thousands of dollars in wages under privatization.

Workers who do the same job at the few state-run residential juvenile programs start at $22,571 a year — about $1,000 more in South Florida.

By contrast, the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, a trade group of state contractors, says the typical starting pay for workers at private centers is $17,500 to $18,000 a year.

For those wages, staff members are expected to be both role models and disciplinarians. They break up fights, prevent suicides, confiscate weapons and foil escapes, all while being disobeyed, threatened and cursed at by teen offenders.

Usually they work eight-hour shifts. But because contractors can be fined if they don't have enough workers on duty, some employees work 16 hours straight if their replacements don't show up.

Everyone agrees that it takes a special type of person to handle the job. But most companies either can't afford or aren't willing to pay for such people.

The Post found that contractors hired people whose recent work experience included stints at a doughnut shop, a turnpike tollbooth and a grocery store. Some got jobs fresh off being fired by private security firms, while other new youth care workers were still teenagers themselves.

At Sarasota-based Correctional Services Corp.'s rural JoAnn Bridges Academy, youth care workers start at $7.21 an hour, or $15,000 a year. The highest paid workers at any Correctional Services Corp. program, Broward County's Thompson Academy, start at $8.89 an hour. That's $18,500 a year in a county where the median annual rent tops $10,000.

Juvenile justice workers with families live below or just above federal poverty thresholds. One personnel file from the Florida Institute for Girls contains an employee's 2003 application for public housing.

References often don't reveal whole story

Because the companies perform a state function with public money, they are required to make records public, including personnel files. But most are accustomed to conducting their business in private and don't make records public. Instead, they give neutral references to anyone seeking information on a former worker.

Left unmentioned are violent rages, suspicions of sex with teens and reports of gross incompetence. Companies worry that if they break their silence, they could be sued for giving a negative reference.

As a result, supervisors at other juvenile facilities did not know that:

• One employee deliberately instigated a fight between teens, and another was fired after he took kids from a drug treatment program to his home to smoke.

• A youth care worker was fired from a Broward County facility for threatening a fellow employee with a handgun; he was hired a month later at a center in Daytona Beach.

• Another missed a mandatory drug test because he was in jail for violating his probation.

• Several others were fired for allowing juvenile offenders to escape, and one for not even noticing a teen was gone.

• One fell asleep while guarding a girl on suicide watch.

Because many private companies have either ignored or were ignorant of the public records law, some have been forced to rely on personal references from people such as pastors, even when the person admitted to knowing little about a potential employee.

Some fired employees got new juvenile justice jobs with recommendations from friends or co-workers who didn't know or wouldn't say what really happened at a previous company.

One was Wilmer Milton, hired in May 2003 by Three Springs Inc. in Daytona Beach. Milton was dismissed from a job at the Stewart-Marchman drug treatment center in Daytona two months before. Supervisors there said he sold illegally copied CDs to the teens in exchange for money they stole from a charity carwash.

Milton got positive references from two employees at Stewart-Marchman, including his immediate supervisor, according to Matt Lockard, the human resources manager for Three Springs.

That same supervisor, according to records, approved Milton's termination less than two months before. Milton did not return phone calls from The Post.

Worker may be hired elsewhere during probe

When a juvenile worker is accused of serious misconduct, the state Inspector General's Office conducts a review and determines whether the staff member was at fault.

Companies then can check with the Inspector General's Office to make sure a potential employee hasn't been the subject of any verified complaints. But even routine investigations can take several months.

State officials say a thorough investigation is necessary to ensure they do not wrongly malign an innocent employee. But by the time a report is complete, an employee fired for misconduct is sometimes already working elsewhere with kids again.

That's what happened in the case of 35-year-old Ronald Lillard, who was fired in October 2000 from the Southwest Florida Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Fort Myers.

The incident began when a teenage boy barricaded himself in his room. Lillard and other staff members tried to force him out by pouring bleach under the door and spraying cans of disinfectant into the room, according to state records. When that failed, they pulled off the window and poked him with broken broom handles.

When Lillard finally got into the room, he pushed the boy against the wall and beat him, ignoring a supervisor's order to leave him alone.

Two days after the state fired Lillard, he was hired at the Crossroads Wilderness camp in Punta Gorda, operated by Associated Marine Institutes.

The company sent a letter to the detention center that fired Lillard but didn't receive a response, said Josie Cruz, a company vice president. When they followed up with a phone call, nobody at the detention center gave any hint of what happened, Cruz said.

The company did not find out that Lillard was under investigation until Jan. 22, Cruz said, nearly three months after he started working with teens again. The company suspended Lillard immediately, Cruz said, and fired him days later.

Questionable role models for troubled teens

Florida's juvenile justice centers are prohibited from hiring felons within seven years of their convictions, and most companies appear to comply. Yet the state and its contractors have hired people with histories of criminal activity that, at the very least, call into the question their credibility as mentors to troubled teens.

At least 138 juvenile justice workers listed as active when their records were obtained by The Post previously had been arrested and punished for felony charges ranging from credit card and check fraud to cocaine trafficking and burglary.

Many of them entered pretrial diversion programs that allowed them to avoid a judgment of guilt. Others had their charges reduced to misdemeanors or were convicted of their crimes more than seven years before being hired.

Youth counselor Wendell Campbell was found guilty of battery by an Okeechobee County circuit judge in October 2000, five months after he attacked a 19-year-old offender at the Eckerd Youth Development Center.

Witnesses told a sheriff's deputy that Campbell, 22 at the time, was upset because the young man told Campbell to go to hell.

Campbell, 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, grabbed the 5-foot-6, 136-pound offender by the throat and pushed him against a wall. The teen's face turned blue, a co-worker said, as Campbell choked him for almost 40 seconds.

The teen spit in Campbell's face, according to the police report, so Campbell slammed him to the ground and kicked him until a co-worker shielded him from Campbell.

Eckerd fired Campbell for child abuse, and a judge sentenced him to a year of probation and an anger management class.

The case was documented in court, state and Eckerd's own records. But two years later, Campbell was hired at the Okeechobee Redirection Camp, managed by the California-based company Owl Global.

Supervisors found the charge of battery during background checks and received permission from the state to hire Campbell, said Geff Stinson, the company's human resources director. But they may not have known that the battery was on a teen offender.

"Would we hire him today knowing what we know now? The answer would be no," Stinson said.

Campbell was not violent in his new job but was fired again in October because he was not up to the company's standards, Stinson said. Campbell could not be reached for comment.

State officials say they have improved their background screening practices since The Post began investigating the juvenile system's hiring practices. When a center requests an applicant's criminal record, state officials now automatically return a list of all other companies that have checked the same name.

Because juvenile justice contractors are required to submit names of all applicants to the state before hiring them, that list represents every place that person has applied. The practice, started in July, can help supervisors turn up work histories that applicants left off their rsums.

But contractors still are not required to notify the state when they fire an employee. That means that the state's juvenile justice agency, the only official watchdog of dozens of separate taxpayer-funded contractors, doesn't know when or why former employees left each company.

Without that basic information, state officials cannot tell their contractors whether an applicant has been fired elsewhere.

Typical worker lasts less than eight months

Exacerbating those problems is that many companies must hire new employees often — and quickly.

In several cases, employees were hired and trained before the positive results of their drug tests or background checks arrived.

"There's tremendous pressure to fill vacant positions," said Mark Fontaine, who represents private contractors as head of the Florida Juvenile Justice Association.

The typical youth care worker at a private company lasts less than eight months, according to an analysis of employment data by The Post, and 62.5 percent will quit or be fired in any given year. Some of the worst churn has been at the Florida Institute for Girls in suburban West Palm Beach. Since the facility opened in 2000, 82.1 percent of its workers have left before working a full year.

Fontaine said he is not surprised that the annual turnover rate is just 19.4 percent in Florida's government-run detention centers, where employees can qualify for state pension plans and earn a yearly wage as much as $6,000 higher than at a private facility.

"I don't care who you work for," Fontaine said, "if you pay your people $6,000 more, you're going to get more people working that you want working for you and fewer that you don't. That's just a fact."

Legislators this year allotted a modest budget increase for residential programs, but there is no getting around the fact that privatization itself is a guaranteed budget cut.

A halfway house for teen offenders in Alachua County, for example, once cost the state nearly $767,000 a year. Florida now pays a private contractor about $682,000, 11 percent less, to operate the same program.

Lobbyists for Florida's private juvenile treatment contractors have asked legislators for more money, saying they can barely get by. But it is clear some of the companies don't always choose to spend every available dollar on improving their centers.

From 1999 to 2003, for example, the top three executives at Correctional Services Corp. took home nearly $4.5 million in total combined compensation, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company's founder, President and CEO James F. Slattery, collected more than $2.2 million in salary, bonuses and other compensation in that time, an average of $442,000 a year.

Florida's top juvenile justice official, charged with overseeing the entire system of public and private facilities, gets $115,000 a year.

Correctional Services Corp. also spends generously when it comes to making friends in Tallahassee. The company spent at least $270,000 on state campaign contributions during the past decade, with company executives personally donating thousands more.

From 1999 to 2003, the company generated revenue of $882 million from the prison and youth programs it runs in Florida and other states but reported a net income of just $77,000.

State officials say it isn't any of their business what its taxpayer-funded contractors pay its workers or how much they spend on kids.

"One of the reasons we privatize is the theory that private corporations can do it better and cheaper than we may be able to," said Steve Casey, the Juvenile Justice Department's deputy secretary. "So to a degree, we try to stay out of that."

The state's role is simply to ensure the programs meet state standards, Casey said, and then "let the free market do what it does, which is drive the price down."

Problems at state-run centers, too

Although high staff turnover and public records violations are more common at private providers, state-run juvenile centers are not immune. The state's juvenile justice agency sometimes fails in its own background checks.

Jimmy Haynes, the employee who punched a 15-year-old at a privately operated drug treatment center in Orlando, was hired again by the state at a detention center just a 20-minute drive away.

It is not clear why the state supervisors who hired Haynes did not request his personnel file from his former employer, The Center for Drug-Free Living, or how they failed to discover that he was under state investigation for child abuse.

Records show that a secretary working for the state contacted a human resources assistant at The Center for Drug-Free Living the day after Haynes punched the teen, whose name is Manuel Marrero. She confirmed the dates Haynes worked and his job duties.

Under the question of whether Haynes had ever been disciplined, the secretary marked "no."

Officials at The Center for Drug-Free Living say their human resources assistant may not have known, at that time, about the incident.

Gustavo Marrero, who lives with Manuel in Belle Glade, knows better than anyone how difficult his son can be. By the time Manuel was sent to the program following an arrest for grand theft, he was regularly smoking marijuana, skipping school and defying his father.

But the programs did not help his son, they only made him worse, Marrero said. And he had to pay them to do it. The state requires parents of teens sentenced to juvenile programs to pay part of the cost, up to $1,825 a year.

Haynes said he agreed the program was not working for Manuel. The boy was consistently violent, Haynes said, threatening and attacking staff members. Manuel should have been transferred to a more suitable program long before their fight, Haynes said.

"I just feel like he had gotten out of their reach.... And they never did anything about it until I got fired," Haynes said.

Manuel Marrero, now 18, denies touching Haynes before he was punched. But Haynes said he felt threatened as Manuel pushed him four or five times, showing off in front of the other residents.

Haynes said he misses working with troubled kids, a career he felt was his calling after surviving a rough childhood.

But The Center for Drug-Free Living only paid him $8.15 an hour in a job he sometimes worked for 16 hours a day. His new job driving a recycling truck for the city of Orlando pays $13 an hour and is much easier, he said.

"My truck doesn't argue with me," he said. "I know my truck won't hit me."

Gustavo Marrero said he isn't angry with Haynes. Marrero, too, has lost his temper with his son.

But he is angry at a state that promised to help. He is disappointed that the workers' failings were worse than his own.

The confrontation with Haynes only made him act out more, Manuel said. After being punched in front of the other teens, he had to show he was tough. So he became more violent, starting fights and threatening the center's superintendent.

Officials at the drug treatment program decided Manuel needed to be transferred. He said it was because he had an anger problem.

Soon after Haynes was fired for punching him, Manuel moved to the Orange County Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Among that facility's employees was a recent hire who had already shown an inability to control his temper around antagonistic teens.

It was Jimmy Haynes.

Date: Fri, 13 Jul 2007 15:41:41 -0400
Subject: REMINDER: DJJ Secretary Walt McNeil's speech, 2/1/07


Just a little over five months ago, on 2/1/07, you arrived at DJJ and delivered an eloquent speech to your 'fellow employees'. Here are some key phrases that I believe you and your fellow employees are having problems adhering to:

"reach out to our stakeholders and communities in a spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration."
"As Governor Crist so eloquently has stated, this is the people's work, and we are public servants first and foremost."
"We will abide by the principles and laws of open government . . ."
"we will be successful only if we work cooperatively with providers, parents, advocacy groups, citizens, local and state agencies . . ."
"I welcome your ideas on ways to encourage local citizen interaction"

Please contact me about my concerns.

Cathy Corry -

2/1/07, DJJ Secretary Walt McNeil's speech to DJJ employees

Dear Fellow Employees:

As you are aware, our honorable Governor, Charlie Crist, has selected me to serve you and the people of Florida as Secretary for the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). I'm truly honored by the Governor's confidence in me, and I'm equally honored to have the privilege of working with each of you. I welcome your ideas, as well as those from our providers, other key public and private stakeholders, and our citizens. Together, we can transform DJJ into a national leader in the fair, balanced and accountable treatment of at-risk youth.

During the coming weeks and months, I intend to meet each of you as I visit our offices and facilities across the state, as well as reach out to our stakeholders and communities in a spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration. As Governor Crist so eloquently has stated, this is the people's work, and we are public servants first and foremost.

I believe that each of us, at some point in our lifetime, must decide how to best serve our fellow citizens. In my case, the decision to accept the leadership role at DJJ was easy. I am the former Chief of Police of Tallahassee (our Capital City), having served as Chief for the last 10 years of my 28-year career in law enforcement. In that role, I enthusiastically embraced opportunities to help implement programs for children who were influenced or impacted by crime. These include partnering with local and state community leaders, advocacy groups, citizens, and public policymakers to address gang interdiction, educational outreach on juvenile crime, and local implementation of a statewide initiative that addresses all aspects of children's needs.

I am proud to say that the employees of the Tallahassee Police Department were recognized in 2006 by the Florida Crime Prevention Association as having the best crime prevention program in Florida. Currently serving as the 5th Vice President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, with oversight responsibility for the Crime Prevention Committee, I have gained critical insights into the importance of shaping prevention efforts to meet the unique needs of diverse communities.

As I begin my service at DJJ, I look forward to listening and learning from you about how we can strengthen the programs and services you provide. It already is apparent to me that DJJ employees go well beyond the call of duty because of your tireless dedication to the children we serve. Public service is the cornerstone of Governor Crist's administration, and I share his passion and commitment to serving the citizens of our State, particularly children at risk.

This collective commitment is the foundation for our first steps together at DJJ, and with that come my expectations for our Department:

1. Every employee of DJJ has a duty to take a strong and proactive role to ensure that each child in our care and custody is safe. Every employee is expected to carry out these duties with the utmost integrity, professionalism, ethical behavior, and reverence for the law. This conduct represents another key cornerstone of Governor Crist's administration and my leadership values.

2. We will abide by the principles and laws of open government and the right of the public, including the news media, to full disclosure under the law. A well-informed citizenry is essential to carrying out our duties at DJJ and is a foundation for good customer service, another precept of this administration.

3. In our on-going commitment to serving children, we will be successful only if we work cooperatively with providers, parents, advocacy groups, citizens, local and state agencies, the Governor's staff, Cabinet members, and legislators in partnership to reach our shared goals. We will work to improve and expand our partnership base and strengthen existing partnerships.

4. Within the Department, my leadership team and I also will work to foster an environment of inclusion, empowerment, good will and job satisfaction for all employees’ opinion and input are valued. Mutual respect, fairness and teamwork will be paramount.

5. DJJ must embrace a philosophy of a balanced approach to reduce juvenile crime. Prevention, intervention, and treatment, when strategically combined, produce a more cost-effective reduction in juvenile crime. Central to our balanced approach will be prevention efforts directed at community involvement, and I welcome your ideas on ways to encourage local citizen interaction.

By achieving all of the above, I believe that DJJ will become the premiere Juvenile Justice Department in the country. Quite frankly, we have some challenges ahead of us in order to reach that goal. But I think we all stand ready to meet these challenges because we know that children are at the center of our efforts. We must be well-managed, progressive, proactive, and good stewards of our resources if we are to become the very best.

I understand that change is never easy, and that change in leadership can create anxiety. You should know that I am a servant leader who believes my job is to serve you, our children, and the people of Florida. As a servant leader, I will place your needs above those of my own in the context of performing the responsibilities of Secretary of DJJ.

In closing, everything that I envision for our organization can be summarized in three concepts: children-focused, customer satisfaction, and continuous improvement. We are fortunate that our mission is so critical and directly linked to the quality of life of the citizens of Florida. What could be more gratifying or inspiring as we embrace the challenges, risks, and opportunities associated with making a difference on behalf of the people?

I assume the position of Secretary with a full understanding of the hurdles we face in the days, months, and years ahead. At the same time, I want each of you to know that my commitment to effectively and efficiently carry out the duties of our agency is unwavering. Thank you in advance for your service to the DJJ and the great State of Florida.


Walter A. McNeil

April 14, 2007

Head of school for juveniles loses job
DJJ cites 'systematic' problems at institution
By Stephen D. Price

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Walt McNeil on Friday fired the acting superintendent and a juvenile justice officer at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna after an investigation into abuse of a youth.

McNeil said the action was a call for a ''change of culture'' at the school.

''There are systemic operational problems at our Dozier facility that span the chain of command from top to bottom,'' McNeil said.

The incident occurred Feb. 11. Justin Caldwell, an 18-year-old at the school, is charged as an adult with battery in an attack on an officer at Dozier School that day.

Later that day, McNeil said in an unrelated incident, Caldwell accused juvenile justice residential officer Alvin Speights of choking him, causing him to hit his head on a table that knocked him unconscious. That incident was caught on a security camera, but McNeil said the faces of other youth not involved had to be obscured before it could be released to the media.

The tape was given to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and could be released early next week, he said.

Last year, DJJ came under fire for delaying release of footage of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson being beaten by guards at the Bay County juvenile boot camp. After being sued by the media, the department eventually released the tape. Anderson died the day after the incident in Bay County and eight employees of the boot camp have pleaded innocent to charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

In the Marianna case, Caldwell has been charged as an adult with battery on staff and is being held in the Jackson County Jail. He had been at Dozier for two years on larceny charges.

Speights was in the process of being fired Friday, and charges against him are pending in the ongoing investigation, McNeil said.

Also, in response to the investigation, John Tallon, regional residential services administrator and acting Dozier superintendent, was fired Thursday.

''It is clear we have to act decisively to change the culture of our Dozier facility,'' McNeil said.

Among changes from the agency's investigation:

Rex Uberman, DJJ assistant secretary of residential services, will temporarily move his office from Tallahassee to the Dozier campus to oversee daily operations.

DJJ hired Community Trust, a Tallahassee-based consulting firm that specializes in juvenile justice facility management, to manage daily operations at Dozier.

Isaac Williams, Community Trust CEO, will temporarily serve as acting superintendent at Dozier.

Staff at Dozier School will be trained to use verbal intervention techniques instead of physical contact on misbehaving youth.

All future management reviews involving Dozier youth or staff will be handled by an investigative staff reporting to Uberman.

''We will not accept abuses of any type of our youth,'' McNeil said.