Christina Daly didn’t have to pen letters to each of the Palm Beach County Commissioners about conditions at the local juvenile detention center, but the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice chief’s two page missive might allay concerns.
“I can assure you this department does not tolerate conduct or an environment that puts youth at risk,” DJJ Secretary Christina Daly wrote commissioners on Monday.
And Daly ticked off a laundry list of efforts: an unannounced visit by both the Inspector General and the head of the agency’s Bureau of Inspections, a fresh round of surveys of teenage boys housed there, a facilities inspection, an assessment of how staffers are trained in the use of force and, of course, the request that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement look into the facility.
Youth Services International, the Sarasota-based company operating the center under contract to DJJ, isn’t mentioned in the letter.
But it’s very much in the forefront of criticism. Legal advocates, including lawyers for teenagers housed in YSI facilities, have slammed YSI for several years. Only last year, a Florida Senate subcommittee took testimony into conditions at a Broward center run by the company.
YSI denied allegations of maltreatment and DJJ’s inspector general also found nothing to report.
None of that seems to have factored into Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana’s desire to see the county break its $1-a-year lease with DJJ for the center property and send the agency, and its contractor, packing.
Rather, it was what Vana found in April when she paid a surprise visit to the 118-bed facility.
Then, this month, two teens were injured; one was hospitalized. In both cases, DJJ said, another teenager was responsible for the injuries- not a staffer.
But staffers have had problems, too, including two who faced misdemeanor criminal charges after arranging a fight between teenagers there.