A juvenile detention center in Florida owned by British outsourcing company G4S has been ordered to shut down by a grand jury. The juvenile detention center is described as “disgraceful” in the jury’s report and seems to fit in well with G4S’ reputation. This is the same company that failed to provide sufficient security at the London Olympics and runs controversial detention centers in Israel that are alleged to facilitate human rights abuses.
The Highlands Youth Academy, located in Avon Park, was designed for troubled young men ages 16 to 19. G4S was projected to make around $4 million dollars from the facility in a period of 5 years. The controversial company owns and operates 28 other juvenile detention centers in Florida.
In their grueling 21-page report, the Florida grand jury accused the company of running unsanitary facilities, crumbling buildings, ill-equipped and poorly trained staff and for not reporting missing children.
The jurors commented, “What we have discovered at the Highlands Youth Academy simply cannot be what our Legislature and state leaders have intended for our juvenile justice system.”
The report found that the citizens were being “ripped off” and that the juveniles are being “poorly served.” The jurors ordered the facility to be shut down.
Pictures of the dilapidated buildings with exposed plywood and steel cots surfaced as the investigation was underway. G4S was accused of leaving roofs in the facility damaged from a 2004 hurricane without repair.
Reportedly, faculty working at the juvenile detention facility were encouraged to handle disputes within the facility by themselves without contacting police. Even more, if they were attacked or assaulted in some way, members of the staff were instructed to wait until after they finish their shift to contact police.
G4S said they would take the allegations seriously yet, as they usually do, still denied all accusations. They said that the bunk beds were replaced during a campus-wide renovation and the roofs were indeed repaired after the storms. They also tried to justify the strict rules against workers contacting police stating they were just following the law.
The new report raises troubling questions about the business model of the security colossus which seems to have an incentive system misaligned with ethics, human rights and the rule of law.