Calls for closure of juvenile boot camps

Ireland On-Line/January 11, 2006

A Florida legislator wants the state to close its military-style boot camps for juvenile delinquents after a 14-year-old boy died just hours after entering one of the facilities.

State Representative Gustavo "Gus" Barreiro made his demand after last week's death of Martin Lee Anderson in Tallahassee.

"These places are terrible, they have been shown to be unsuccessful, and they should be shut down," Barreiro told The Miami Herald. "I think they should be eliminated."

Anderson – who was sent to the camp because of an arrest for grand theft – had to be restrained when he became uncooperative following exercises as part of the entry process at the camp, authorities said.

He soon complained of breathing difficulties and collapsed.

He died the next day at a Pensacola hospital.

The family's attorney says the boy was abused.

Investigators are awaiting autopsy results, but Dr Charles Siebert, medical examiner for Bay County, said he has ruled out trauma or an injury as the cause of death.

Toxicology reports are pending.

In the past few years, similar American-run camps in Costa Rica, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Czech Republic have been closed after allegations of abuse.

Many parents and alumni of such intensive behaviour-modification schools say they change lives for the better.

But the schools also generate complaints that students are strong-armed, brainwashed or scared into changing their ways. There are also questions about their effectiveness.

Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice's records show that 62% of graduates from the several camps around the state are re-arrested after release.

The camps are run by county sheriff's offices under contract from the state.

The Department of Juvenile Justice is reviewing all sheriff's office policies for the camps considering Anderson's death, said spokeswoman Cynthia Lorenzo.

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