Boot camp video shows beating of boy who died next day

The Guardian/February 20, 2006
By Richard Luscombe

A controversy is growing over the future of Florida's notorious 'boot camps' for young offenders after the release of a video appearing to show five officers beating a teenager who died the next day.

Gina Jones, the mother of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, has accused the state-run facility of murdering her son and covering up the incident by refusing to release the grainy, 10-minute video until forced to do so by a court order.

According to the family's lawyers, the video shows the officers beating, choking and kicking Martin, who died in hospital the day after the incident at the Bay County sheriff's department boot camp in north Florida on January 5. Two other black teenagers have died in boot camps.

The Bay County coroner ruled last week that Martin's death was due to internal bleeding brought on by sickle cell disease, a condition that afflicts about one in 20 African Americans. None of the officers have been disciplined, although a criminal inquiry has been launched.

"They picked on him so much until they murdered my baby," Mrs Jones said. "Martin didn't have a chance. I couldn't stand to see ... my baby like that."

The camp's CCTV cameras recorded the alleged beating after Martin complained of being short of breath. In one scene, his body jolts up and his head snaps back after an apparent knee to his back.

Several state politicians have called for the closure of Florida's five juvenile boot camps, which gained popularity in the 1990s as a character-building alternative to prison. Supporters say that offenders are more likely to be rehabilitated in camps, but critics say there have been too many incidents of unnecessary violence.

"Anyone watching this video can see that the child was very, very ill," said Dan Gelber, a Democratic party Florida congressman. "This is not a kid who needed an attitude adjustment, this is a kid who needed medical attention."

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