MORE CLAIMS OF ABUSE AT BOYS CAMP
Florida Examines Camps for Delinquents
New York Times/October 14, 2006
Greenville, Florida -- State juvenile justice officials and other agencies are looking into whether improper and excessive restraint tactics were used at a privately run camp for delinquent boys, a newspaper reported Saturday.
The Greenville Hills Academy has been the subject of more than 280 complaints made by youths who called the Department of Children & Families' child abuse hot line in the last couple years, although only 30 reports were verified, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald.
At least one youth may have suffered a broken collarbone at the camp this month, and one 16-year-old claimed he was choked at the camp, the newspaper reported.
State Department of Juvenile Justice Chief of Staff Cynthia Lorenzo said Saturday that the agency was extremely concerned about allegations of abuse at the camp and opened an investigation about a week ago.
"We do not tolerate excessive use of force," she said, but added that she couldn't give details while the investigation was still under way.
The camp is operated by Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, which operates it and similar facilities under contract with the Department of Juvenile Justice. Juvenile courts may sentence youths to such camps. The CEO of Twin Oaks, Donnie Read, said Saturday it wouldn't be appropriate to comment while the probe was ongoing.
The state's juvenile justice agency has been under scrutiny since the death earlier this year of a 14-year-old at a Panama City boot camp-style facility for juvenile delinquents. That camp was shut down and a special prosecutor is looking into the death.
As law enforcement investigates allegations of abuse, officials at the governor's office sent a team to a North Florida town to ensure the safety of juvenile delinquents.
October 14, 2006
by Carol Marbin Miller and Marc Caputo
GREENVILLE - Three separate state agencies are investigating whether caretakers used banned, excessive and harmful restraints at a camp for delinquent boys, some of whom are mentally retarded or have other special needs.
At least one youth might have suffered a broken collarbone at the Greenville Hills Academy in Greenville just last week, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald. One 16-year-old claimed he was ``choked.''
And in another episode, guards also reported using a technique called a wrist lock that was banned two years ago by Anthony Schembri, secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Justice, an agency still reeling from the death of a 14year-old at another Panhandle facility earlier this year.
The DJJ is investigating Greenville along with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Department of Children & Families. The agencies declined to give any details other than to confirm the investigation into the academy, which has been the subject of 30 verified abuse or neglect claims made to a state telephone hot line in two years.
''Certainly, the agency takes these allegations very seriously,'' said DJJ chief of staff Cynthia Lorenzo. ``Our top priority is the safety of youth in our care. Unfortunately, with open investigations we are unable to provide details. Once we do have all of the facts, we will take swift and appropriate action as needed, if any of our staff was involved in any wrongdoing.''
Donnie Read, who heads the youth camp's operator, Twin Oaks Juvenile Development, did not return calls from a reporter. Twin Oaks has faced unsustained allegations of abuse at another facility in Apalachicola.
Simply known as ''the Academy'' in Greenville, an old railroad stop of a town in Madison County, the complex of brick buildings is topped with bright-blue roofs. It is surrounded by rolling lawns immaculately kept behind barbed wire fencing off a rural road. From a distance, the juveniles, wearing purple shirts and gray pants, look like average kids herded about summer camp by overseers clad in brick-red shirts.
One employee, who wouldn't give his name, said workers have whispered about the probe. And some think it's unfair.
''It's tough managing some of these kids. They can just go wild,'' the worker said.
Academy officers also filed three incident reports with the juvenile justice agency last week, including the one in which a teen alleged a guard ``choked him.''
The camp has a history of complaints from the teens housed there. Youths filed 286 reports of abuse or neglect with the DCF child abuse hot line from September 2004 through June 2006 -- an average of about 13 reports each month, according to DCF abuse records obtained by The Miami Herald. Thirty reports were verified.
The investigation of Greenville Hills comes at a particularly sensitive time for Florida's troubled juvenile justice agency.
A special prosecutor in Tampa is nearing the end of a nearly yearlong investigation into the Jan. 6 death of Martin Lee Anderson, who officials say was asphyxiated by guards restraining him at a Panama City boot camp. An earlier official autopsy concluded that Martin died of natural causes.
BOOT CAMPS CLOSED
Lawmakers passed legislation to curb the use of physical force at five Florida boot camps, resulting in the closure of all but one.
''These are the most vulnerable kids in the system, and they're being abused,'' state Rep. Gus Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican who heads a juvenile justice oversight committee, said of the boys housed at the moderate-risk program for ''the mentally challenged'' in Greenville, a small junction-town between Tallahassee and Jacksonville.
''These are the kids who really need our protection the most,'' he added. ``But they are being abused the most.''
A 2006 inspection of the academy, which Twin Oaks took over in July 2005, found that the camp used a behavior modification program in which youths were rewarded when they exhibited ''pro-social'' behaviors.
Though state records say Greenville Hills houses boys aged 14-18, the inspection suggested some of the boys are so young they still wet their beds.
''It should be noted that Madison cottage houses the little boys and it appears that there may be a bedwetting problem,'' the March 2006 report said, noting the cottage ``smelled of urine.''
Roy Miller, whose Tallahassee-based Florida Children's Campaign has been a vocal critic of the state's youth corrections effort, called the allegations ``very upsetting.''
'The administration has described every abuse incident as `isolated.' They are not isolated. The system is in crisis. We have gone on record as saying these programs cannot guarantee the health and safety of our children,'' Miller said.
State Rep. Mitch Needelman, a Melbourne Republican who is vice chair of the House Juvenile Justice Committee and sits on a separate DJJ oversight committee, said he was ''disappointed'' that DJJ officials failed to alert him to the investigation before a reporter started asking questions.
In May, DCF's inspector general concluded there was no evidence to sustain allegations that youths at another Twin Oaks-run facility, Apalachicola Forest Youth Camp, ''sustained serious injury'' as a result of excessive force at that Florida Panhandle camp for youths incompetent to stand trial because of mental illness or disability.
The report said, however, that eight youths had broken bones at the camp between October 2003 and March 2006, including four broken arms and two broken elbows. At least four of the injuries occurred during restraints. Twice, on Feb. 4, 2004 and Sept. 13, 2004, youths fractured elbows during ''elbow control'' restraints, the report says.
HURT DURING RESTRAINT
One Miami youth, a then-15-year-old with mental retardation who was detained at Apalachicola after being charged with molestation, suffered a spiral fracture to his left arm in December 2005, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald. A report from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital said the injury occurred during a restraint.
In all, DCF received 219 child abuse reports involving the camp since January 2002. Twenty-six of the reports were closed with either verified abuse or some ''indicators'' of abuse.
''These are somebody's kids,'' Barreiro said. ``We just can't continue to hurt these kids and expect them to come back to the community and not want to hurt other people.''
DIARY OF CHRISTOPHER SHOLLY
03/04/2002 Greenville Hills Academy The lawn mower
I was sent to Greenville Hills Academy.
I was sent there for violating probation, and I violated by trying to commit suicide, I am 13 years old at this time. I regret trying to do this now.
When I got to Greenville Hills Academy, I was beat up by the Staff that worked at the cottage, Merit Cottage. I have no idea why the staff beat me up. I was scared and confused. I did the only thing I could think of, I kept my mouth shut and stayed to myself. Well, the next morning I got up and seen some bad things. I seen one boy, by the name of Tylor Clarry, being hit by the staff. I seen other youths being abused also. I went to school and took some tests.
When I went back to the cottage, the staff somehow found out that I could not read or write at the time. The Staff's name was Mr. Jones. The staff started calling telling me to read the posters on the wall, and I couldn't do it. I told him "I can't read that." He grabbed a dictionary and told me to look up a word. I forget what the word was, but I think it was "medical". I took the dictionary and began flipping through the pages. I did this for close to ten seconds before Mr. Jones grabbed the dictionary out of my hands and threw the book on the table and called me stupid and retard. He told me to go and stand in the corner until he told me to sit down. I said "NO", and he said if I didn't do as he told me, he would beat me up. I didn't want to get my tail whooped again, so I did it.
All throughout the day the staff messed with me, called me a white piece of sh**, and poked names and cussing at me. After about 4 days on, another boy kept trying me, so we fought. After the fight, the staff grabbed me and dragged me into a back room, no camera's there. It must have been a weight room cause there were weights in it. The two staff threw me up against the wall and got in my face and said, "why the f*** did you fight, this is my house and I don't take no sh**!. "They both were yelling at me and spit was flying into my face. I was not worried about the yelling, I was worried about them beating me up.
After they were done yelling at me, they threw me on the floor and jumped on my back and held me down. They grabbed my arms, legs, and hands, and restrained me. They bent my legs over my back, all the way until the tips of my feet touched the back of my head. One staff was pulling my legs, the other pulling on my head. The position they put me in was widely called "the lawn mower". It hurt so bad, I thought I was going to pass out.
After they were done, the staff punched me and kicked me a few times each. All the while, I was laying on the ground crying and pleading them to stop. But they wouldn't stop. All throughout my days at Greenville Hills Academy, I went through hell. This that I am going to write below are the things that the staff used to do to me and others there; The Staff used to beat us up everyday. They used to only let us have around a minute of two to eat our food. [This is evident as my son had a significant amount of weight loss while there. DC]
They used to make us wait a very long time to use the rest room,. If we used the bathroom on ourselves, the staff would make us wash our clothes out in a five gallon bucket and no gloves with cold water. Most of the kids there used the bathroom on themselves, because the staff would make us hold it for so long. I, came close to using a number 2 on myself at school. The staff wouldn't let me go to the bathroom. I begged her for like ten minutes and she finally let me go to the bathroom.
The staff used to mentally abuse us as well. They would call us names, and make fun of us. They used to tell us that we youths would never be anything in life.
03/10/2002 Greenville Hills Academy I am not going to give up
As I said during my stay at Greenville Hills Academy, it was hell everyday. I heard nothing but Staff yelling and screaming at us kids, beating up on us, slapping us in the back of the head.
This boy Tylor Clarie had to use the bathroom and the staff would not let him! He held it for an hour and then at the end of the hour he used it in his pants and the staff made him sit on the floor for an hour and a half in it, it was number 2!
I was sitting at this table and these two boys were doing sign language and I was watching them, and I started to do it to. The staff saw me and started to yell at me, I tried to tell them what I was doing, and then Mr. Jones told me to stand up and I did, then he told me to sit back down, when I did, he yanked me up by my shirt collar and threw me against the wall. Then he was choking me and threw me on the ground and pushed my face onto the tiled floor, and sat on me for twenty minutes. Then he got off me and told me to lay completely flat on the ground.
This boy Justin Groover was horsing around and the staff made him stand in the corner for three hours.
The kids in the program are only allowed to take take a number 1 (urinate) two times a day, and you are only allowed to take a number 2 one time a day. You are only allowed to get three drinks of water a day. You have 2 hours of physical training, and if you mess up while your doing it, everyone has to start over again. When you go to dinner, lunch, and breakfast, if you talk at all you have to stand in a corner for half the time you have to eat, until everyone is done eating. When you get out of the corner you only have ONE minute to eat and if you don't eat at least half of your meal you get in to BIG trouble.
When you get back to the cottage, you have to stand in the corner. You only have three minutes to take a shower and if your not done in the three minutes you have to stand in the corner naked. You have to wear a sweater ALL day no matter how hot it is. When we have bathroom breaks you only have 15 seconds to go to the bathroom, and only two minutes to take a number two.
After you get done with 2 hours of PT you only have five seconds to get a drink of water. If you take longer then the five seconds you have to stand in a corner or sit in a chair with your hands on your knees looking straight ahead. If you prop your foot up on a desk in school, you either have to stand in a corner or sit in the chair looking straight ahead with your hands on your knees. If you do something wrong, they will take you back into room and restrain you by making you lay on your stomach with your hands behind your back while they bend your legs toward the back of your head. They will do it for 20 -25 minutes. We also only get 2 minutes to wash and brush our teeth.
09/09/2002 Greenville Hills Academy I will be home soon I know it
Dear Mom, I have been doing good, and I have been controlling my anger and ignoring my peers. Most of the have stopped because I have been ignoring them, I am doing as I am told to do, and love you very much. Today I got 3 bonus days for making Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That means I am on track. I have been here now for 182 days and right now I have 71 and a 1/2 positive days. I did not get any MALS on Saturday and Sunday and I have not gotten in anymore fights, and it seems like the staff have not had to yell at me that much. My Counselor Denise Grahm, told me that I leave in January to come home! If I make 47 days I think I will come home sooner. How are things at home? I have not been able to call home because my Counselor Ms. Grahm has not been here but she is now and I will call you soon. Please write me back. I am going to try to make my days and come home and be good and do everything you tell me to do, and you can call me too if I do not call you. You can only call me one time a week. It has to be before 9:00 pm, or 8:00 your time there. I love you and miss you. I love all of you, love your Christopher. I will be home soon I know it!! and my Counselor said if I can control my anger I might be able to come home before January and I am going to work hard on that. and I meant that.. and I am not going to give up! Love you all, I think of you all everyday, all day. Call or write. Love your Christopher :(
10/06/2002 Greenville Hills Academy Yes, he has marks on him
I received a phone call from my son Christopher Sholly and his Counselor, Deneice Graham.
My son began by telling me a horrific Story of a Guard there, so called "restraining him" and at the same time delivering blows to his back and head with a closed fist, and choking him, leaving marks around his neck and bruises on his arms and various parts of his body. I was able to speak to his counselor, Deniece Graham, and she then confirmed my question of whether or not there were bruises and marks about his neck, and body. Her answer to me was "yes, he has marks on him".
I immediately called and reported the abuse to the Abuse Hot line for Florida's Department of Human Services. The Counselor on the other end of the phone, took the report and a investigator was sent out. My Son was told that his story was typical and hard to believe, because so many kids have falsely accused the staff in these facilities, just to get back at them. Yet he had bruises. I later found out that the HRS/DCF investigator was related to the staff member that hurt my son.
10/08/2002 Greenville Hills Academy I'm going to beat you to a pulp
I made a phone call to my son at Greenville HIlls Academy to see how he was doing. He explained to me that he was taken into Ms. Thompson's Office who is the Assistant Director, along with the Guard that abused him, and was told by the Guard, in his exact words, "If I have to lay my hands on you one more time, I'm going to beat you to a pulp" this Guard was none other then Rodney Baynard the very Guard with the past criminal history, and lied on his employment application, and the very Man that broke my sons arm almost exactly a month later.
I called the Regional offices about this, and by now they were probably sick of hearing about all the abuse I was reporting and nobody believed me. My son was moved to a different cottage to keep him away from this man, Rodney Baynard. I was told that Mr. Tallon would be making a surprise visit to Greenville Hills and he was going to speak to my son. He did in fact do this. My son then told me, that after the visit with Mr. Tallon, he was then taken into a back office of Ms Thompson and told, that "if he didn't straighten up, keep his mouth shut, he would be sent off to another program and have to start all over from day one of his sentencing with no serve time given!" I had begged for months to have my son moved from all of the abuse going on.
11/17/2002 Greenville Hills Academy Get him the hell out of there
Rodney Baynard broke my sons arm.
The doctors confirmed that much force was used to break the arm in the area that was broke. The x-rays confirmed a break on the upper dorsal section of his left humorous, a Salter 1 fracture, near the growth plate. I called Vicki Burnett and told her what happened, and she acted shocked, and asked me "what can I do?, to make this better" I said GET HIM THE HELL OUT OF THERE, like I've begged you to do now for months. I said he NEEDS to come home now, he has been there way too long! She said I can't do that. He was then transferred out of that program in two days, sent to Okaloosa Youth Development Center OYDC in Crestview FL. NO time served or given, both programs were low risk. It took him getting a broken arm to get transferred out of GHA!!! This is what I mean when I say.. LISTEN TO THE PARENTS!!! THE KIDS TELL US EVERYTHING!!! THEY ARE NOT TELLING FALSE TALES!!!
This incident was investigated by the IG's office, and of course the staff say it was all Christopher's fault, and it was an accident. This man was also guilty of breaking two other boys arms and it was just before my son's arm was broke. I believe the assault was on purpose, this man was not even suppose to have contact with my son, as they had moved him to a different cottage, yet why was he able to have access to him? He also threatened to "beat him to a pulp" a month prior. NO ACCIDENT! NO arrest on Rodney Baynard. It was my understanding that Deniece Graham quite working there as well. During the IG's investigation, the investigator had no idea about Rodney Baynard's criminal past record, that was found out by myself, and I then alerted the IG's office in which they did the investigation on him and found all history to be true.
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