The Editorial Board believes that a community is measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable members — and few are more vulnerable than the young and troubled.
The Miami Herald’s shocking Fight Club investigation and the atrocities it exposes in Florida’s juvenile justice system should make us all wonder whether we’re doing right by those in need.
If the tragic death of 17-year-old Elord Revolte is any indication — and it is — the answer is clearly no.
Elord, while in detention inside Module 9 of Miami's juvenile lockup, died of internal bleeding from a savage beating by at least 12 youths. The attack was captured on grainy security video. According to two detainees in the lockup that day, the attack was instigated by a detention officer.
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The brutality of that act is what makes the findings of investigative reporters Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch so infuriating. These are youths incarcerated due to poverty, drug use, street gangs, bad breaks, bad decisions, bad parenting.
Florida’s juvenile detention system is meant to reform them and get them back on track.
Instead, Marbin Miller and Burch found, it can abuse them further. It can break their souls and spirits. It can even take their young lives.
The story of Elord and the other youths, featured in the series published online this week and in a special section in Sunday’s newspaper, offer irrefutable evidence that there is a dark side to juvenile justice in the form of incompetent detainee supervisors; questionable healthcare; willfully blind internal investigators; and staff members who make boys fight like pit bulls in exchange for something as trivial as a honey bun.
Is this locker room behavior? Incarcerated boys being boys?
Absolutely not. It’s a horror.
The Herald investigation reveals case after case where guards ordered teens to beat up other teens, children were sexually exploited, and sick young people were accused of feigning illnesses, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Reporters found 12 young people — ages 12 to 18 — who died in the juvenile system under questionable circumstances since 2000. Even one would have been too many.
The result of those deaths: Not one staffer served a day in prison.
When a troubled teen dies in Florida’s juvenile justice system, it has come to this: the Department of Juvenile Justice issues the required statement and conducts the perfunctory investigation; parents grieve, but can’t do much more than that; kid is buried. End of story.
The rest of us excuse it away. We think, he was a “bad kid” — that’s why he was in the system.
Elord was in the Miami detention center on armed robbery charges.
So why should you care that a punk kid is beaten to death while in state custody?
Or, if he survives the physical trauma, is emotionally battered and bruised?
Because with your tax dollars, you finance this cruel system.
In the end, it has to do with our humanity as a community.
Elord Revolte was no angel.
But this community owed him a chance at rehabilitation, not a death sentence.
“They treated my child worse than a dog,” Enoch Revolte, Elord’s father, told the reporters. “My child wasn’t a dog. My son deserves justice.”
Sadly, he’s right.