Editorials

Death while in juvenile detention

Five staffers at the juvenile lockup were fired in connection with the death of Elord Revolte, 17.
Five staffers at the juvenile lockup were fired in connection with the death of Elord Revolte, 17.

Imagine having your out-of-control teenager arrested, charged with a serious crime and sent to Miami-Dade’s juvenile lockup.

You might hope a brush with the law will knock some sense into him, shake him back onto the straight and narrow.

But instead, while in the care of the juvenile-justice system, your teenager is beaten to death by other kids. Kids who may have been offered a bounty — Snickers candy bars, honey buns or Skittles — to carry out the fatal attack. Were they enticed by the very guards who were supposed to protect your son at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center?

These horrific allegations are being offered as an explanation as to what happened to Elord Revolte, 17, who died in late August after a vicious attack by as many as 20 other detainees at the juvenile lockup.

Elord was a troubled — and troublesome — teen whose father left him at an airport when he took a trip to Haiti. Elord’s cousin tried to care for him for a while, but the teenager ended up in a Miami Beach foster home, from which he ran away.

Were the boys who attacked Elord rewarded with by the guards with sweets? That has yet to be determined. But is the despicable practice routine at juvie hall? A Miami Herald report has determined it is.

Even worse: Elord should have gotten immediate medical care. He didn’t. Staffers waited a full day before calling an ambulance to get Elord to a hospital.

Fortunately, Elord’s death has not been swept under the rug by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice or stalled by an internal investigation that drags on so long only family members clamor for the outcome and those responsible escape punishment.

In this case, DJJ appears to have taken swift, decisive action with the help of Miami-Dade police.

Credit, too, goes to Miami Herald reporter Carol Marbin Miller, who first learned of the alleged connection between food bounties and beatings from Elord’s short-term foster mother. The public defender’s office was alerted in the course of her reporting the story.

Within days, up to 15 young detainees told their attorneys of the practice of inmates being offered honey buns by guards in exchange for hurting or disciplining other detainees.

Last week, five staffers, including three supervisors, were fired for violations linked to Elord’s death that include failing to oversee detained children and falsifying official reports.

There’s likely more fallout on the way: A special team has been dispatched from the DJJ Inspector General’s Office to launch an investigation into widespread allegations that it was common practice for officers to use treats as an inducement for detainees to punish other kids, as lawyers for other children and Elord’s former foster mother have told the Herald.

Elord was booked into the Miami lockup on Aug. 27 on charges of armed robbery. He and an accomplice were accused of a serious crime: stealing a man’s cell phone at gunpoint in Miami Beach.

Some will justify his death by saying he was a bad kid on his way to becoming an adult criminal. That’s a cruel and heartless view. His arrest should not have been a death sentence.

In lockup, kids in Elord’s module allegedly complained to the guards about his bad bahavior. The guards may have let the detainees dispense punishment themselves, it’s alleged.

Acting like boys out of Lord of the Flies, they beat Elord — mercilessly.

The staffers’ firings can’t be the end of it. Elord Revolte died, and police and prosecutors must determine who is criminally responsible.

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