“They turned out to be the ally of the corporations, and the ally of the system.” Florida’s permissive oversight has allowed Youth Services International to essentially game the system since entering the state more than a decade ago.
It was early 2004, only three months into the private prison company’s .5 million contract to run Thompson Academy, a juvenile prison in Florida, and already the facility had become a scene of documented violence and neglect.The agency refused to discuss specific details of Huff Post’s findings, though a spokeswoman issued a statement asserting the department is committed to ensuring that youth in its system “remain safe and are given every opportunity to thrive.” She said contract oversight is one of the agency’s top priorities.“With 100 percent of the agency’s residential services provided through contractors, the contract selection and renewal process is paramount to our success,” said the spokeswoman, Meghan Speakes Collins, in an email. Rick Scott took office in Florida, the department has “revamped” its review of contractors, she added, by engaging in deeper statistical analysis of trends such as high staff turnover and the number of altercations between staff and youth. Slattery focused largely on incarcerating adults and undocumented immigrants through his for-profit prison business.Florida not only relies on private contractors to self-report escapes and incidents of violence and abuse, but the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records, a Huffington Post investigation has found.“We thought DJJ was going to be our biggest ally,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief juvenile public defender in Broward County, who has for years complained to the state about conditions inside two YSI prisons there.
The company used connections with state officials to complain that Blanton was intimidating staff.