Saturday, April 22, 2006
Justice for Martin and Gina
Martin Anderson 14, who was convicted of joy riding in his grandmother's Jeep, entered the Panama City boot camp Jan. 5. He died hours after a group of guards punched and kneed him. Video of Martin's Beating
His death is under investigation by a Tampa-based special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, and federal prosecutors are looking into the case as well .
State Sen. Tony Hill, a Jacksonville Democrat who has helped spearhead efforts by the state's legislative black caucus to hold guards accountable in the youth's death, called for ''justice'' in the case Thursday from the floor of the Senate, saying the teen was ``viciously murdered.''
Florida's juvenile justice chief says there was little he could have done to intervene in the aggressive use of force on kids at a juvenile boot camp, prompting a lawmaker to question his honesty.
The state's juvenile-justice chief said Tuesday he didn't step in to stop what appeared to be excessive use of force at a Panama City juvenile boot camp for three years for two reasons: He was unaware of 180 use-of-force reports from the camp, and his hands were tied because the sheriff who ran the camp was an elected official separate from his agency.
Anthony Schembri, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, made his comments in response to a story Sunday in The Miami Herald detailing how teens were manhandled for minor infractions -- for simply shrugging, smiling or smirking.
Schembri said that the rules at sheriff-run camps have long been more hands-on than the rules governing any other juvenile detention facility.
''They're not constrained to follow them. They have a higher system. They're an elected official. They discipline their own people. I discipline my people. They discipline their people, and they should be doing that when they use excessive force,'' Schembri said.
``I would have handled those cases a lot different, and I have.''
Schembri's statement provoked an instant rebuke from state Rep. Gus Barreiro, the Miami Beach Republican who chairs a criminal justice budget committee that funds DJJ.
''There's nothing he says that's credible anymore,'' Barreiro said, referring to misstatements Schembri has made, particularly in the case of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson's death on Jan. 6 after he was beaten by guards at the Bay Boot Camp in Panama City.
''He's the head of this agency, these kids are in his care,'' Barreiro said.
``For him not to take responsibility is a surprise. The sheriffs are on contract with DJJ, so Schembri's still in charge.''
Schembri and Barreiro began clashing late last year when Barreiro's committee lambasted DJJ for placing a severely developmentally disabled child with a sexual offender, who allegedly changed the disabled child's diapers and raped him as well.
During an Oct. 20 committee meeting, Schembri told lawmakers he was vehemently opposed to the use of excessive force on kids and that, as the man in charge, he was going to fix problems and own up to them.
He also said he ''fired'' 300 employees for using excessive force -- a number that he now says is closer to 60.
180 REPORTS OF FORCE
According to The Miami Herald's review of the Bay Boot Camp's use-of-force reports, 173 of the 180 incidents were deemed ''appropriate'' by administrators.
`TICKING TIME BOMB'
Of the seven others, four were unresolved and three were found inappropriate.
''That was a ticking time bomb: 180 incidents of use of force,'' Barreiro said.
Minor offenses at camp brought beatings
A smile, a mumble and other forms of nonviolent behavior resulted in force against teenage boys at a Florida sheriff's boot camp, a Miami Herald investigation found
Views vary on how to keep juveniles' behavior in line
The teenage boys smiled, they shrugged and they smirked. They spoke without permission or they refused to speak at all.
That's all it took for the boys at the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp to provoke a swift and painful response from their guards. Even crying and ''whimpering'' brought harsh discipline.
The scenes were repeated over and over, 180 times over the past three years, at the juvenile boot camp in Panama City, according to Florida Department of Juvenile Justice records obtained by The Miami Herald under the state's public-records law.
In only eight of the 180 instances documented since January 2003 were the teenagers described as hitting guards, fighting with other youths, threatening to escape or trying to harm themselves.
The documents -- use-of-force reports written by the guards themselves -- show that the overwhelming majority of the youths were subjected to ''takedowns,'' hammer-fist blows and ''knee strikes'' for:
• Being unwilling or unable to perform rigorous exercises.
• Exercising without sufficient ``motivation.''
• Being ''insolent'' with guards.
• Speaking without permission.
• ``Breathing heavily.''
• ''Tensing'' themselves.
Boys were physically ''restrained'' for furrowing their brows, mumbling or gritting their teeth. On Christmas Day 2004, one boy was disciplined for smiling.
KNEES, FISTS, THUMBS
USED FOR DISCIPLINE
Their punishments: knees jabbed forcefully into their thighs, hammer-fist punches to the arms, wrist twisting, and being wrestled to the ground. Another common tactic was the use of ''pressure points,'' in which guards used their thumbs to cause pain by pressing on sensitive areas behind the youths' ears or under their chins.
''I . . . observed offender become still and his breathing become shallow and I felt him tense his right arm. . . . I then applied a knee strike to his left thigh area,'' a sergeant wrote after one episode on Feb. 23, 2005.
In many of the cases, the guards used the tactics despite written orders by Department of Juvenile Justice chief Anthony Schembri, who in June 2004 banned the use of physical force except in extreme situations.
EXPERT FINDS `PATTERN
OF TORTURING CHILDREN'
Juvenile justice experts who reviewed the documents at The Miami Herald's request said the treatment of the youths was unjustifiable.
''What you have there is an administratively approved, systematic pattern of torturing children,'' said Ron Davidson, director of mental health policy in the psychiatry department of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who studied the 180 reports. Davidson has reviewed nearly 400 group homes, mental hospitals and juvenile justice facilities for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services and other agencies.
Waylon Graham, a Panama City attorney for the camp's second-highest-ranking officer, Lt. Charles Helms, defends the actions of the guards, saying they behaved exactly as DJJ and Sheriff's Office administrators expected of them, and never intended to harm the youths in their custody.
''They were tightly supervised,'' Graham said. ``Everything was videotaped there. There were no rogue drill sergeants out of control. To be blunt, some of those kids showed up at the boot camp mean as hell, after they'd been rejected by alternative programs. This was kind of the end of the line.''
A computer analysis of the boot camp use-of-force reports -- which were redacted by the state to exclude the youths' names for privacy reasons -- shows that all but seven of the 180 incidents were declared ''appropriate'' by the camp's administrators. Three were found to have been inappropriate, and four were left unresolved.
Among the unresolved cases: the Jan. 6 death of Martin Lee Anderson, who was punched, kneed and choked by several guards when he said he couldn't breathe and couldn't run more laps. Martin's death remains under investigation by a special prosecutor in Tampa appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush.
The physical punishments meted out at the camp were well known to officials at the DJJ. All of the use-of-force reports were faxed to DJJ headquarters in Tallahassee for review, and there is no record of DJJ officials ever objecting to the boot camp's methods for dealing with uncooperative detainees.
''Whoever read those reports has to share the blame -- and there is blame,'' said retired Miami-Dade Juvenile Judge Tom Petersen, who also reviewed the use-of-force reports for The Miami Herald. ``The fact that this went on, and went on for years, makes it so much worse.''
A spokeswoman for Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Since Martin's death, the Sheriff's Office has declined to discuss the camp, citing state and federal investigations into the teenager's death. The camp is closing down Thursday, although all of the youthful offenders have already been released or moved to other DJJ facilities.
The Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp opened in 1994, as the state tried to cope with a series of violent, well-publicized crimes by teens. Some of the mayhem had been directed at tourists, the state's economic lifeblood.
The theoretical underpinning of the boot camp programs, all run by county sheriffs, was that troubled youths needed strong discipline and an outlet for limitless energy, as well as successful adult role models to emulate.
But at some point, academic experts say, many of the camps became all ''tough'' and no ``love.''
There has been one coverup after another, with Sheriff McKeithen saying that Martin died of a sickle cell blood disorder. If it were not for the outrage of the black community and marches held by the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev Jesse Jackson, Martin would be just another statistic that was silently put to rest.
Meanwhile, there now could be a witness in the case, should it go forward at Justice (there will also be a civil suit, which a state legislator has vowed to pass an item having the state fund beyond Florida's $200,000 liability cap.) From the Tallahassee Democrat:
Local woman says son told her 'they killed that boy'
By Stephen D. Price
A Tallahassee mother said Tuesday her 14-year-old son was in juvenile boot camp with Martin Lee Anderson, and he described what guards did to Anderson as "murder."
That revelation came the same day Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen announced he would close the county's boot camp where guards struck 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.
"I feel really bad for this lady and every other child that doesn't deserve this type of treatment," said Shauna Manning, referring to Anderson's mother, Gina Jones. "That's why I'm here, to speak out on behalf of her child." ...
... Manning visited her son, Aaron Swartz, at the Bay County boot camp three days after Anderson's incident with the guards, she said Tuesday in the law office of Tallahassee attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Anderson's family.
"He said they killed that boy," Manning said.
She said her son told her guards had pegged Anderson for a troublemaker when he first arrived at the camp because he wore braids. The day the incident occurred, Anderson was being cooperative and had run 15 laps of the 16-lap run he was required to do, until he began having breathing problems.
The guards then confronted Anderson, Manning said her son told her, and began hitting him.
Manning's son was later transferred to another boot camp.
Manning's son also has alleged that his asthma was ignored by doctors at the camp,and he complained about authorities at the camp forcing ammonia capsules up his nose, and using restraint and "pressure" techniques similar to those seen on the security videotape that captured the preamble to Anderson's death.
There's also this from the SP Times story above, regarding medical examiner Charles Siebert:
... When Siebert concluded Martin died of natural causes, he was practicing without a medical license. His license expired Jan. 31 and he did not renew it - until Tuesday.
He renewed it in person in Tallahassee, said Doc Kokol, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health. Siebert will be fined $385 for practicing without a license for a month.
First-time offenders like Siebert generally aren't disciplined further, Kokol said. Fewer than 3 percent of physicians whose licenses must be renewed fail to do so in an average year, Kokol said.
The teen's family is challenging his report, though they have not said how they will do so.
Options include filing a complaint with the state Medical Examiners Commission and asking an independent pathologist to review the files, photographs and slides that Siebert made during the autopsy. The family also could exhume the body for a new autopsy.
"We haven't ruled anything out," said Crump, the attorney.
The Medical Examiners Commission looks to see "if something was just blatantly overlooked, or somebody had drawn the wrong conclusions," said Stephen Nelson, commission chairman and Polk County's medical examiner.
Let's open all this up. And we'll see then whether Florida's boot camp program, now just four camps strong, is really worth saving.
Martin’s name will appear atop a new state measure intended to protect other kids from a similar fate.
The state House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to shut down the state's remaining military-style boot camps for juvenile delinquents, calling the budget item the ''Martin Lee Anderson Act.'' The provision replaces them with programs that stress education, counseling and aftercare.
In a town the size of Canton, South Dakota, population 3,195, plenty of people knew that 14-year-old Gina Score liked to steal things.
She stole Press-N-Go fingernails worth $2.99 from the ShopKo in Sioux Falls, stole four Beanie Babies from Brower's Gifts and Collectibles in Canton, stole $60 from a sleepover girlfriend, even stole candles from her Lutheran church. Outwardly, Gina didn't seem troubled -- she babysat for neighbors, wrote cute poems, and smiled radiantly for pictures. But she confided to social workers what they surely guessed: Kids can be cruel to eighth grade girls who weigh 224 pounds. Sometimes Gina cried herself to sleep.
Supported by her parents, Gina endured years of programs and punishments intended to change her behavior: community service, individual and family counseling, group care, house arrest, fines, restitution, probation, juvenile detention. Nothing really worked. Finally, in June of last year, after yet another parole violation, a judge placed Gina in state custody until age 21 and sent her to a military-style boot camp for teenage girls located at the State Training School in Plankinton.
Like boot camps in two dozen other states, the Plankinton boot camp and a counterpart for boys in the town of Custer were set up to treat children like military recruits. Kids were forced to rise before dawn, perform rigorous exercises, and march like soldiers. Phone calls and visits from parents were prohibited for the first month, and the slightest rules violations were met with swift punishment. As in many other states, the South Dakota boot camps were part of a political campaign by a tough-on-crime governor; Bill Janklow, a popular Republican and ex-Marine now in his fourth term, promoted them as a commonsense solution to juvenile crime. Despite widespread abuses at boot camps from Florida to California, many politicians and frustrated parents have found salvation in the camps' simple goal: to reduce troubled teenagers to their emotional core, back to frightened children, so that their minds will open long enough to imagine a life without drugs, crime, and self-hatred. As a boot camp warden from Texas explains, "We want to turn their lives upside down."
Five days after Gina Score arrived in Plankinton, she and 15 other girls from Cottage B began a mandatory 2.6-mile jog at about 6:30 a.m. on the gravel roads outside Plankinton's razor-wire fences. What happened that morning is detailed in medical reports and eyewitness accounts by inmates and staff members at the boot camp. The girls trotted past sprawling farms of corn and soybeans and a small community cemetery; but it's doubtful that Gina appreciated the pastoral scenery. She must have been panicked. Gina was severely overweight and "hated to run," as her mother later recalled. The temperature and humidity were both around 70 and climbing.
Within a block or two, Gina started lagging behind. As the girls reached each corner of the rectangular route, where they were allowed to rest briefly and drink water, they waited for Gina to catch up. Two youth counselors repeatedly shouted for Gina to keep moving, sometimes interlocking their arms with hers just to keep her going forward down the dusty roads. At roughly 7:45, after the other girls had reached the front gates, Gina staggered and collapsed 500 feet from the finish. Several girls tried to help her up, but staff members, believing one inmate who said Gina had acted this way before at a halfway house, were convinced they had a "behavior problem."
"Quit faking!" several girls recall a supervisor shouting. "You're embarrassing us." Everyone knew the boot camp credo: Quitting Is Not an Option. When four girls encircled Gina to give her shade, counselors ordered them to back away.
A staff nurse who checked on Gina at 8:05 said her vital signs were normal and that she was simply hyperventilating. An hour later, Gina struggled to her feet and began slowly walking back to her cottage. A few hundred feet later, within sight of her air-conditioned cottage, she collapsed again. Her eyes were dilated, her skin pale, her lips purple. She urinated on herself and began frothing at the mouth. Her eyes rolled back in her head. Even when a farmer's manure truck rumbled down the road beside her, Gina didn't budge. The staff still thought she was faking; several girls recall them laughing and telling jokes as Gina lay on the ground. The camp's director came out to assess the situation, but he told the staff to "wait out" Gina, so no one called for an ambulance.
"I was crying," says Christi Battis, a former inmate. "All the girls were crying. ... How could she be faking it when she was pale blue and wasn't even brushing the flies off her?"
Finally, at 10:47, three hours after Gina collapsed, two physicians happened by and ordered that an ambulance be called. Six minutes later, paramedics were giving Gina oxygen, but on the way to the hospital, her heart stopped. In the emergency room they sent chilled IV fluids through Gina's rigid body and packed her in ice, but a rectal thermometer peaked at 108 -- the highest it would go. Internally, she had literally begun to cook. With her organs shutting down, repeated attempts to restart her heart were futile. At 12:39 p.m., Gina was declared dead. "It was," said emergency room physician Jerome Howe, "the worst case of heatstroke I've ever seen."
Gina Score's death shocked the sensibilities of South Dakotans, who trusted state-run boot camps to protect and educate troubled children as well as straighten them out. But for those familiar with the juvenile justice system nationwide, the scandal was simply the latest outrage in a decade-long tale of abuse at boot camps. There are currently an estimated 4,000 kids in approximately 50 military-style camps nationwide. At least half a dozen children have died in detention, and numerous state and federal investigations have concluded that hundreds of others have been subjected to physical and emotional abuse.
On a muggy July morning, 14-year-old Gina Score collapsed during a forced run at South Dakota's boot camp for girls.
She lay on the ground for three hours before dying of heatstroke.
In the 16 months since Score's death raised questions about juvenile
boot camps across the country, the girls' boot camp at Plankinton has
been dismantled. The legislature has set up an office to monitor juvenile corrections, and lawmakers have given a legislative panel authority to periodically review juvenile programs.
But some say state boot camps remain deeply flawed. On Monday, a federal judge was scheduled to hold a hearing on a proposed settlement of a lawsuit between the State Training School where Score collapsed and the Washington, D.C.-based Youth Law Center, which seeks to monitor the boys' boot camp in Plankinton, an eastern South Dakota farm town.
''I think in the long run kids in these facilities will be protected, they'll be safer and hopefully will come out better in the sense of not being abused while there,'' said Youth Law Center staff attorney Marc Schindler.
Score's parents have also filed a lawsuit, set to go to trial early next year. Lawsuit documents quote state Attorney General Mark Barnett as saying the state was responsible for the girl's death because of the way the boot camp staff treated her.
''We killed her,'' he said.
Gov. Bill Janklow, who credits three years in the U.S. Marines with turning his life around, called five years ago for boot camps as a way to teach teen-age offenders the discipline and other skills needed to set them straight.
The Republican governor has blamed ''rogue employees'' for Score's death and other problems.
But Democratic House Minority Leader Pat Haley said the problem is widespread.
''What was put together here was a routinely abusive system,'' said Haley, a former prison guard. ''It wasn't rogue employees. It was the system.''
Score was sent to the camp in July 1999 after stealing a bike, skipping school and shoplifting. Two days into the program, the 5-foot-4, 226-pound girl joined other girls on a 2.7-mile required run.
She collapsed near the end, and staff members left her on the ground because they thought she was faking. A nurse at the scene later said she didn't recognize the girl's symptoms as heat exhaustion.
Investigators said the temperature had reached 77 degrees in 81 percent humidity by the time an ambulance was called. Score's temperature reached at least 108 degrees, the maximum a thermometer could record.
Two staff members were acquitted on child abuse charges in the death and other problems, including making girls run in shackles until their ankles bled.
Today, South Dakota judges send fewer juveniles to state facilities, partly because of what some judges described as caution after Score's death.
A report this year by the Koch Crime Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Topeka, Kan., found about 50 boot camps across the nation, not counting those run by the National Guard. That's down from 60 several years ago, says Jerry Wells, the institute's director.
Boot camps' physical exercise requirements and sometimes untrained staff can be dangerous, says Doris MacKenzie, professor of criminology at the University of Maryland. On the other hand, studies indicate both staff and juveniles in boot camps have more positive attitudes than those in traditional juvenile corrections programs, she said.
''The attitudes in many of the camps are very supportive,'' she said.
''There seems to be a very caring relationship.''
But she said studies show boot camps are no better than traditional programs in preventing juveniles from getting into trouble after release.
Wells said tragedies such as Score's death should be expected when boot camps are run by untrained staffs.
''The surprise to me was that it was a surprise, because it was a recipe for disaster,'' he said.
The proposed settlement in the Youth Law Center lawsuit would limit the use of straints and isolation cells and require mental health treatment, education programs and staff training in addition to monitoring.
Janklow says he continues to get letters from parents who say their children's lives have been set straight by boot camps. He won't comment on the lawsuits until they are settled.
Gina Score's parents, David and Viola, have refused to talk publicly in recent months, but said a year ago that they were devastated.
''The state should never abuse a child,'' Viola Score said.
Camp Fear Read more about Gina’s story at above link.
And the most frightening aspect of all is the recently privatized or for profit juvenile detention centers set up across the country. Many of these are run by a large for profit prison company CCA. Read more about the abuses of this company here Juvenile Crime Pays
All of us are responsible for Gina and Martin's deaths. We paid for them with our tax dollars. Don't you agree that it's time we starting being better citizens and paid more attention to what is being done in our names.