"Recent events have brought to light the need for a more thorough review of the procedures involving use of force at juvenile facilities, " Lorenzo said in a brief statement. "The agency is committed to the safety and well being of youths in our care. We need to do better, we can do better, and we will do more."
Dr. Janet Konefal, director of complementary medicine at the University of Miami and a longtime practitioner of acupuncture and pressure-point techniques in healing, said that applying extreme pressure to certain parts of the body can cause great pain - which is why pressure points also are used in martial arts.
"Most people will just comply because it hurts, " Konefal said. "You can bring somebody to their knees. You can make somebody faint."
BEHAVIOR QUESTIONED FORCEFUL TACTICS LIKENED TO CHILD ABUSE
Chelly Schembera, a retired Florida social service administrator with extensive child welfare, juvenile justice and inspector general experience during her 27-year tenure with the Department of Children & Families, said the use of such tactics as using pressure points, knee strikes and wrist holds would send parents or other caregivers straight to jail.
"This would be categorized as child abuse, " said Schembera, who reviewed all the camp's use-of-force re- ports for The Miami Herald.
One teenager told the Bay County boot camp's second in command why he struck out at three officers who used force against him when, according to the camp's report, he "began to perform exercises poorly." The youth was charged with battery, although the charges were later dropped.
"I was getting tired and I wasn't doing [push-ups] as quickly as I could, " the boy said in a taped statement on Nov, 5, 2004. "Sir, I was yelling, sir, like in pain, sir. . . . I rolled over and I struck the officer trying to get him off me . . . cause they put [pressure] underneath my throat, sir, and I couldn't breathe."
"I was crying, I had tears, sir, I just wanted to get this over so I was trying to get my mind to think about something else, " the boy said.
A report on the Oct. 30, 2004, incident said the boy had a "dime-size" bruise behind his right ear that had scabbed up from one of the pressure points applied to his head.
Another boy described how pressure was applied to his throat on Feb. 8, 2005. Officers used force on the boy shortly after he entered the boot camp.
"They asked me if they were going to have any problems with me, and I stopped to think about it and the next thing I know . . . the staff is in my face yelling at me, " the boy is quoted as saying in a Sheriff's Office report, written for the DJJ inspector general. "One of the [guards] placed his hand on my adam's apple and tilted my head back applying pressure, " the youth said in a taped statement. "He applied pressure to my adam's apple to the point where it felt like I was being choked."
One boy was given a "rug burn" above his eye during a "takedown" on Feb. 8, 2005, after an encounter that the guards described as "search and instructions."
The report does not say how a takedown led to a rug burn on the face.
Another teen got his lip cut during a lengthy use of force the next day. The boy provoked guards by "talking to himself while sitting in his doorway, " a report said. As guards maneuvered to do a takedown, the boy "tensed his left arm after being repeatedly ordered not to tense his arm."
For that, the youth was slammed with a knee and pressed with a thumb behind the ear.
"I then noticed that offender had blood on his bottom lip, " the report said, giving no explanation for how the youth got cut.
GUARDS HAD LEEWAY THEIR TACTICS LABELED 'CORPORAL PUNISHMENT'
Schembera, the retired DCF official, said the guards should never have been allowed to use force in the incidents they reported. "I don't have any doubt in the world that this is corporal punishment, " she said. "And I don't have any doubt in the world that it would not be allowed by any state agency or government contractor - especially without any real justification.
"It is against the law to use corporal punishment on children in state care in the state of Florida."