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.

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