‘Horrific:’ Officials Describe Broward Juvenile Center

A group of Florida lawmakers, local officials and the NAACP made a surprise visit to the Broward Regional Juvenile Center, which some described as “horrific,” “subpar” and “unacceptable.”

The officials were all in agreement: a new facility is needed. The detention center was the center of scrutiny following the revelation of violent conditions, such as fight clubs.

“This facility is unacceptable,” Florida Rep. Bobby DuBose said Friday. “Two of the young ladies showed us they had ant bites up and down their legs … you know what they gave them? a rag and bleach and told them to just scrub the area.

Gordon Weekes, Jr. of the Broward Public Defender’s Office said the facility had “significant rust and mildew.”

At the facility, juvenile offenders are forced to do repairs and cleaning. Mental health services are also lacking, Broward NAACP President Marsha Ellison said.

“They don’t have janitorial staff; the children are their own janitors,” Ellison added. “I don’t think they’re equipped to handle to medical issues be it mental health issues or otherwise.”

In late September, 50 kids took over the facility. Officers were called in to regain control. A guard was attacked nearly a week later and kids went through his pockets to find a key to escape.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice said it takes “the well-being and safety of youth as our top priority.”

“DJJ annually requests funding from the Florida Legislature for facility improvements as we continually work to ensure our facilities are safe, youth-centered environments,” the agency said in a statement.

Lawmakers plan to address the problems in Florida’s juvenile detention centers – perhaps by looking at other examples.

“There are states that are doing it right. Florida happens to be one of the states that is falling far short of how it needs to be done,” Weekes added.

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