A 15-year-old refused to go to his room. He ended up in the infirmary.
The episode began on the evening of Nov. 6, 2014, when a teen at the Duval Academy defied a worker’s order to return to his module after making a phone call. The teen cursed, but otherwise remained passive. In response, a group leader dragged the youth toward his room by the back of his neck, pushed him into a wall, held him “in a headlock-type restraint,” and slammed him to the floor face-first.
Ultimately, the youth said, the worker “applied all of his weight on [the] youth’s back with his hand around his neck, making it difficult for the youth to breathe,” a report said.
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The youth “was scared for his life at the facility,” a 2105 report said.
A therapist witnessed the encounter and later told an investigator “she did not see a reason for a restraint.” But instead of helping the 15-year-old, she told him “to calm down” so the supervisor would release him.
Another employee, a business manager, recounted that the boy “told her he could not breathe, and asked her to tell [the group leader] to get off of him. She did not say anything,” a report added, “because she did not want to interfere.”
An examination of the teen found a “deep red bruise under his right eye,” a lesser bruise under his left eye, and “visible marks [on his] face, neck, elbow and knees.”
A Department of Juvenile Justice restraint expert later reported that the youth “was not showing any signs of being aggressive or a threat to the safety and security of the program.” The report judged the group leader’s actions “unwarranted.”
The group leader was fired.
This narrative is part of Tales from the Front, a collection of short stories about Florida's juvenile justice system. The Miami Herald investigated the state's youth corrections system following the 2015 beating death of a Miami-Dade detainee. Read the full "Fight Club" investigative series here.