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Florida Senators to Consider Future of Private Prison Company In Wake of Sexual Abuse

By Sandra Khalifa

Photo of the exterior of a prison building

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Senators will yield to mounting pressure from youth, community members, and fellow legislators from across the state and hold a public meeting on Wednesday to examine multiple allegations of abuse, negligence and unsanitary living conditions at juvenile detention facilities privately owned and operated by Youth Services International, Inc. (YSI).

YSI has come into the spotlight after being linked with multiple cases of child abuse, negligence, and unsanitary living conditions for minors. Huffington Post author Chris Kirkham released extensive information today on a lawsuit detailing several cases of rape and sexual abuse of young boys by the chief of YSI facility Thompson Academy in Pembroke Pines. Another lawsuit is also filed in light of sexual abuse of a minor at YSI’s Broward Girl’s Academy. In both cases, higher officials and staff were aware of instances of abuse but deliberately left cases unreported.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice will hold a meeting on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 to discuss the Department of Juvenile Justice’s multi-million dollar contracts with the private juvenile prison company.

Dream Defenders, an organization fighting against the private prison industry and youth incarceration in Florida, have been working to publicize YSI misconduct against minors across the state and to prevent the Department of Juvenile Justice from continuing to allow use of public funds for the abuse and neglect of minors. The state is currently considering a multi-million dollar contract for a new YSI facility in the Miami area, which would add to four other YSI contracts issued by the Florida DJJ in 2013 totaling nearly $37 million.

“On Wednesday, the Senators of the Appropriations Subcommittee have an opportunity to demand a thorough hearing on the Department of Juvenile Justice’s relationship with YSI, a corporation that profits off youth bodies and maintains a long record of abuse,” said Curtis Hierro, Florida Field Director for Dream Defenders. “Dream Defenders call on Governor Scott to step out of the way and allow Secretary of the DJJ, Wansley Walters, to crack down on these disturbing atrocities taking place under her watch.”

On December 10, 2013, Senator Darren Soto requested extensive documentation from the Department of Juvenile Justice on YSI’s contracts and incidents of abuse at its facilities. He and Senator Jeff Clemens also requested that Senator Rob Bradley, chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee, call a hearing on the DJJ’s ties with Youth Services International, Inc. The DJJ oversees more than $100 million in state contracts held by YSI.

Follow Dream Defenders on Twitter @DreamDefenders.

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Sandra Khalifa

communications director of the Dream Defenders

Catch up with me @snkhalifa.



sexual violence


January 13, 2014

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