Despite Alleged Sex Assaults at Thompson Academy, State Not Investigating Other Lockups

Categories: Broward, Crime
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flickr user: Mark Coggins
Are the other kids safe?
A lawsuit filed earlier this month accuses the operator of Thompson Academy, a juvenile detention facility in Pembroke Pines, of turning a blind eye to sexual assaults, physical abuse, and intimidation of its young residents by staff members.

The Pembroke Pines police, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are all conducting investigations into the allegation that one 15-year-old boy was twice forced to have oral sex with a staff member at Thompson.

But what about the seven other facilities that operator Youth Services International runs in Florida, including Broward Girls Academy in Pembroke Pines?

A DJJ spokesman says those lockups are not getting any extra scrutiny. "No allegation against any other YSI facility has been made, and therefore there would be no reason to investigate any other facility," says Samadhi Jones, spokesperson for the department.

That sounds reasonable enough, until you read the gruesome details of the alleged assaults. They paint a picture of a harrowing detention center, where the teenager's complaint about abuse was ignored -- until it happened again.

According to the lawsuit, a Thompson staffer first cornered the 15-year-old, identified only as D.B., in the laundry room in March. Grabbing his own crotch, the staffer asked the boy, "Are you going to suck it?"

D.B refused, but the staffer forced him to comply. Afterward, D.B. spit the evidence into a rag. He then brought the rag to another staff member he trusted and told her about the incident. The next day, Craig Ferguson, administrator of the academy, allegedly told D.B. not to mention the incident to anyone.

Months passed, and the staffer accused of assault continued working at the academy. In August, the staffer escorted D.B. to a dentist's appointment off campus. This time, the staffer trapped D.B. in the bathroom and would not let the teenager leave until he gave him oral sex, according to the suit.
 
Now that the suit has been filed, D.B. has been released from custody and the staff member accused of assault has been removed from contact with children, a YSI official told the Miami Herald.

That's comforting, but without a state investigation, who's to say similar incidents aren't occurring at other lockups?

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