The state of Florida has recently awarded Youth Services International, whose past is splotchy at best, two more contracts to establish youth prisons, with a possible third on deck. The state already has four contracts with YSI, to which Florida will pay $37 million.
Youth Services International is a private prison contractor that focuses primarily on the incarceration of youthful offenders. However, the company has developed a disgustingly tarnished past over the last 20 years. Prisons under the company have become notorious in headlines for the ridiculously high rate of abuse and sexual victimization against imprisoned youth.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility was found to have the highest rate of reported “sexual victimization at the hands of other youth of staff.”
Other than sexual assault, young inmates have also been subject to brutal physical abuse. In one account, at the Thompson Academy in Fort Lauderdale, a boy inmate was attacked by a counselor after he asked for a better fitting pair of underwear. The counselor “charged” at the boy and began to choke him until the counselor was removed by another. Some time had passed, and the offending counselor attacked the boy again in his room.
According to a 2010 lawsuit against the Thompson Academy from the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Children are choked and slammed head first into concrete walls, their arms and fingers are bent back and twisted to inflict pain for infractions as minor as failing to follow an order to stand up.”
Field director for Dream Defenders, a student advocates group, Curtis Hierro said “When it comes to incarceration, Florida continues to be at the forefront of being inept. The political leadership in this state on both sides of the aisle are going to have to answer to this issue — to the horrible conditions in YSI’s facilities and why they continue to get contracts.”
Just a few weeks ago, an email from a Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice spokesman outlined that the state opted out of renewing its contract with YSI. The state cited financial reasons, rather than the reports of sexual abuse within the YSI’s walls.