Staff to teens: Let’s you and him fight

The arrest of two workers at the Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility uncomfortably echoes other reports of Youth Services International employees looking the other way – or encouraging- the center’s teenagers to fight each other.Vinny JonesDavid L. Croney
Sheriff’s investigators say that last summer, David Lee Croney and Vinny Valentino Jones brought two unidentified teens to a storage room where they could fight each other- and they did, leaving one with a fractured eye socket.
A few years ago, Gordon Weekes, the chief assistant Broward County public defender, said he was told by teenagers that workers at the Palm Beach center used food as a reward: Teenagers who ganged up on other teens that staff singled out as troublemakers “would get an extra slice of pizza, or chicken wings,” Weekes said he was told. “It was bizarre, teaching them to be predatory with other children.”
Weekes notified state officials. The state investigated, said a spokeswoman, and none of the complaints could be substantiated.
Youth Services International, which has millions of dollars in contracts to run Department of Juvenile Justice facilities, has been embroiled in controversy in Florida and elsewhere for years, starting with their very first Florida contract in Pahokee. The deal imploded: Judges started refusing to send kids there.
Croney and Jones face child neglect charges.

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