A staffer at a Florida City program for teenage boys with mental illness or drug addiction had a disturbing remedy for a troubled youth who intentionally hurt himself: He attacked the boy, injuring his head, a Department of Juvenile Justice monitoring report said.
The victim of the attack was supposed to be receiving mental health treatment. A DJJ report described his emotional and mental health as “fragile,” and said that when his mother was told he’d been abused, she never responded. “Youth stated his family support is broken,” the report said.
The worst of it happened beyond camera range, and a co-worker witness initially lied about what she saw.
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An inspector general’s administrative review of the Feb. 18, 2014, incident concluded that restraining the 15-year-old boy was “warranted,” because the teen had been biting his arm at the time — behavior not uncommon among children with mental illness or intellectual disabilities. The takedown went too far, though, a report said.
The DJJ monitoring report from the Dade Juvenile Residential Facility said there was “clear video footage” showing the worker pushing the “youth victim” backward with both hands repeatedly until the teen was beyond the range of cameras. The youth alleged that the worker “slammed his head against the outside kitchen wall, [and] video footage and witnesses corroborate youth was physically abused.”
Another worker, the report said, did nothing to stop it. Both the reported attacker as well as the staff witness who failed to intervene told investigators they radioed for help, although the video didn’t show that. The worker who performed the takedown failed to file a required report.
Although the confrontation mostly happened in a blind spot, windows line the wall of the dining building and several detainees witnessed the assault.
Dade’s nurse eventually saw the teen and “documented the youth had bruises and swelling about the forehead area,” the monitoring report said.
The staffer who watched the abuse wrote a report that “lacked factual information.” When confronted with video evidence, she changed her story, and “was given an opportunity to revise the original written statement,” the monitoring report said. She was given extra training.
The worker who did the shoving 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.