Page 1

THE HUFFINGTON POST MAGAZINE

NEGLECTED

INSIDE A PRISON EMPIRE’S STARTLING RECORD OF JUVENILE ABUSE BY CHRIS KIRKHAM

NOVEMBER 3, 2013


11.03.13 #73 CONTENTS PRISONERS OF PROFIT

Enter POINTERS: Remembering Sandy... Losing a Legend JASON LINKINS: Looking Forward in Angst DATA: Where Prisons are Guaranteed Q&A: Neil Patrick Harris HEADLINES MOVING IMAGE

Voices PETRA COLLINS: Why Instagram Censored My Body PA RT 1

A PRIVATE PRISON EMPIRE’S STARTLING RECORD OF JUVENILE ABUSE ANDREJS ZEMDEGA/GETTY IMAGES

PA RT 2

LAX OVERSIGHT FUELS A CYCLE OF MISTREATMENT BY CHRIS KIRKHAM

ANDI SLIGH: How My Children Have Helped Me Become Perfectly Human QUOTED

Exit HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: For the Globetrotter in Your Life THE THIRD METRIC: Dining in Silence With a Roomful of Strangers TASTE TEST: Sour Cream and Onion Chips MUSIC: Dog Ears TFU FROM THE EDITOR: Juvenile Injustice ON THE COVER: Photograph for

Huffington by Chris McGonigal


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

ART STREIBER

Juvenile Injustice I

N THIS WEEK’S issue, Chris Kirkham takes an in-depth look at a private prison empire based in Florida. What he learns about the Youth Services International prison system is deeply disturbing — the result of six months spent scouring thousands of pages of state audits, lawsuits, local police reports and probes by

state and federal agencies, along with interviews with former employees and prisoners. In Florida, YSI manages more than $100 million in contracts. And despite a record of abuse and mistreatment at its facilities, the company has continued to win business in several states. Unwilling or unable to perform the necessary oversight, Florida’s Department of Juvenile

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Justice “routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records,” Chris writes. As one former Department executive tells him, “They don’t want the providers to look bad, because they don’t have anyone else to provide this service. Bottom line, the state of Florida doesn’t want responsibility for these kids.” As a result, young people have faced a range of abuses, from being served bloody, raw chicken to being “choked and slammed head first into concrete walls,” as a 2010 lawsuit chronicles. Elsewhere in the issue, Jason Linkins points out the ridiculousness of comparing the technical difficulties hampering the Obamacare website to the Iraq War, as National Journal columnist Ron Fournier recently did. “Now, obviously, at first blush, this comparison seems very stupid. Like, say, something that only a complete idiot — a real, blubbering, blithering, stupid-faced moron — would consider, let alone put into words and enunciate in a public forum,” Jason writes.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

However, he continues, some similarities can be found. “The word ‘surge’ has been used in conjunction with each thing’s terrible flaws, and the efforts to repair the problem. So, that’s something. That is, at the very least, a ‘thing.’”

Young people have faced a range of abuses, from being served bloody, raw chicken to being ‘choked and slammed head first into concrete walls.’” Finally, as part of our continuing focus on The Third Metric, Carey Polis introduces us to the enlightening experience of dining in silence with a roomful of strangers.

ARIANNA


RON ANTONELLI/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

Enter

1

POINTERS

A YEAR LATER

Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast one year ago this week, leaving in its wake hundreds dead, millions without power and billions of dollars in destruction. Families languished in the dark for weeks, as electricity companies struggled in the face of widespread outages. Congress passed bills to approve about $60 billion in aid after the storm — but not without infighting, as some fiscal conservatives pushed back against the expenditure. “While there are still homes to rebuild and businesses to reopen, the last year has also served as a reminder of the strength and resilience of the American people,” President Obama said Tuesday. For some, the recovery is still ongoing. Residents of areas like the southeastern shore of Staten Island will never get back their homes, some of which were completely destroyed in the storm.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Enter

2

POINTERS

‘COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE’

The Guardian revealed last week that the phone numbers of 35 world leaders were handed to the NSA and “tasked” for monitoring. Among the top diplomats subject to spying was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which her spokesman called “completely unacceptable” espionage. The White House said it’s reviewing its practices.

FROM TOP: YVES HERMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; AP PHOTO/MATT ROURKE; AP PHOTO/LM OTERO

3 ‘WE CANNOT UNDO WHAT HAS BEEN DONE’

4

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

ABORTION LAW ROLLED BACK

Penn State announced Monday that the school had agreed to pay $59.7 million to 26 victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted in June 2012 of 45 criminal counts related to the sexual abuse of young boys. The settlements will end those cases brought against the school. Penn State President Rodney Erickson said, “We cannot undo what has been done, but we can and must do everything possible to learn from this and ensure it never happens again at Penn State.” Sandusky is serving 30 to 60 years in prison.

A federal judge in Texas on Monday ruled that parts of the state’s controversial new abortion law were unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down a requirement that doctors who provide abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, saying the regulation “places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus and is thus an undue burden to her.” The judge left intact certain restrictions governing medication-induced abortions. State Sen. Wendy Davis, who is now running for governor, filibustered for nearly 13 hours in June in an attempt to prevent the law from passing.


Enter

5

POINTERS

SAD SONG

Lou Reed, the legendary musician known for being the lead singer of The Velvet Underground and for his solo career, died on Oct. 27 at 71. The AP reported that Reed died of an ailment related to his recent liver transplant, citing his literary agent. “[T]here are really only a tiny handful of other figures who you can compare to him,” Simon Vozick-Levinson, a senior editor at Rolling Stone, told CNN of Reed. Rolling Stone ranks The Velvet Underground’s debut album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, as the 13th greatest of all time. The Boston Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2013 World Series Wednesday night, with a final score of 6 to 1. David Ortiz, the Red Sox star, was named the MVP of the series. This is the third win in the last 10 years for the Red Sox, but the first time since Babe Ruth’s team in 1918 that they’ve played the winning game in their home ballpark, Fenway Park. The win comes after the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this year. The Red Sox wore “Boston Strong” logos on their sleeves, and Fenway’s center field showed a “B strong” logo mowed into the grass.

FROM TOP: JUAN NAHARRO GIMENEZ/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES: JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES

6 BOSTON STRONG THAT’S VIRAL THE VERY DEFINITION OF CUTE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

A selection of the week’s most talked-about stories. HEADLINES TO VIEW FULL STORIES

WHY EXACTLY IS DENMARK THE HAPPIEST COUNTRY ON EARTH?

RACIST CELEBRITY HALLOWEEN COSTUME #1

WHY ARE YOUR FACEBOOK FRIENDS GIRAFFES?

HATE IS NEVER THE ANSWER


ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

Enter

LOOKING FORWARD IN ANGST

JASON LINKINS

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

HOW HEALTHCARE.GOV CAN BECOME EXACTLY LIKE THE IRAQ WAR IN 12 EASY STEPS S MANY OF YOU may know, whenever the media sees a significant, developing story, their natural tendency is to think in terms of comparison. Their eyes have been transfixed by a new, shiny bouncing ball, and deep within the recesses of their memory, they start to remember other times

A

in which they’ve been similarly entranced by other shiny bouncing balls. Endorphins are released, filters are lowered and the frenzy of mad analogizing begins! And so it came to pass that the launch of the Healthcare.gov website was thought of as the Obama administration’s “Iraq War.” Now, obviously, at first blush, this comparison seems very stupid. Like, say, something that only a complete idiot — a real, blub-

Since its launch on Oct. 1, the Obamacare website has faced scrutiny from contractors and lawmakers due to its failure to process millions of applications from uninsured Americans.


Enter bering, blithering, stupid-faced moron — would consider, let alone put into words and enunciate in a public forum. There are real differences between Healthcare.gov and the Iraq War, after all. For example, as Ana Marie Cox at the Guardian points out, the Affordable Care Act, which spawned the Healthcare.gov website, produced a “ruthless, even suicidal political opposition” among Republicans, who recently threatened to shut down the government in an effort to defund it. Democrats didn’t take their opposition to the Iraq War nearly to these extremes — heck, even when they retook the House in 2006 on the explicit promise that they would end the Iraq War, Democrats mostly dithered. As Cox goes on to point out, columnists and reporters of all ideological affiliations have been remarkably clear-eyed and deeply skeptical of the Obamacare website in the wake of its launch, whereas they basically responded to the beginning of the Iraq War with noises that sounded more like, “Rah-rah, wowee-zowee!” Oh, and perhaps I should have specified this from the outset, but in case you haven’t already figured this out, the Iraq War was a war

LOOKING FORWARD IN ANGST

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

At first blush, this comparison seems very stupid. Like, say, something that only a complete idiot — a real, blubbering, blithering, stupidfaced moron — would consider.” and Healthcare.gov is a website. There’s an appreciable difference between the two things, I think. Though, it should be said, one thing that wars and websites do have in common is that they are the only two things that Americans really manufacture anymore. (Though — Healthcare.gov aside — we are obviously having better luck with the websites.) Unfortunately, these facts are just not enough to put to bed the idea that Healthcare.gov is President Barack Obama’s Iraq War. Fairness compels me to note that there are two very obvious points of comparison where they match, if only slightly. For example, it seems that those who spurred the development of Healthcare.gov did so in an environment where naive optimism was encouraged. They maybe didn’t use the word “cakewalk” to describe how easy-peasy the launch of the website was going to be, but they surely managed to convey a sense that everything was going to work very smoothly despite repeated warnings that things were amiss.


Enter Also, the word “surge” has been used in conjunction with each thing’s terrible flaws, and the efforts to repair the problem. So, that’s something. That is, at the very least, a “thing.” It isn’t easy to make these sorts of comparisons. As they say, the perfect analogy is like a gravel-sack cherry-flavored armchair marmalade kitten-butt. Even so, with these points of intersection, you sort of have to give a little credence to the idea that this website is kind of like a war. And from there, you sort of need to admit that on a long enough timeline, the Healthcare.gov website could — maybe! — become almost exactly like the Iraq War. So, how can this objectively false equivalence achieve, over time, a little more truthiness? For Healthcare.gov to become more like the Iraq War, here are the 12 things that will have to happen as the efforts to fix Healthcare.gov proceed. 1. In short order, the Healthcare. gov website will pull down a statue of “millions of Americans cannot afford basic health care coverage.” It will be initially reported as something of an emotional turning point, but later it will come to light that it was all blown out of proportion. 2. Sometime this week, and in

LOOKING FORWARD IN ANGST

spite of the fact that the hard work of fixing the website has only just begun, a “Mission Accomplished” banner will be affixed to the Department of Health and Human Services. The president will stand in front of HHS, extolling the work that hasn’t been completed. 3. Somehow, the ongoing work on Healthcare.gov will result in the Smithsonian being looted of hundreds of priceless antiquities. 4. Referring to federal IT contractors and phone-bound customer service professionals, Kathleen Sebelius says, “As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” 5. Approximately $12 billion, shrink-wrapped and shipped to Healthcare.gov on pallets, will just up and disappear for no good reason. 6. Healthcare.gov will be referred to by President Barack Obama as a “catastrophic success.” 7. Photos will be released depicting, among other things, a group of naked and humiliated contractors from website creator, CGI Federal, stacked atop one another in a pyramid. 8. Obama will bring an

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Enter inedible turkey to Heathcare.gov for Thanksgiving. 9. Eventually, the problem that precipitated the need for the Affordable Care Act in the first place — the fact that millions of Americans cannot afford basic health care coverage — will be discovered, hiding in a spider hole in a remote location. “Millions of Americans cannot afford basic health care coverage” will be subsequently deloused, imprisoned, tried, and eventually hanged by masked goons, who chant “Muqtada,” for what I am sure is some perfectly rational reason that you probably shouldn’t worry about. 10. Finally, after a long, hard slog, a nominally functioning Healthcare. gov website will come online, and by all appearances work reasonably well. The one weird thing is that Healthcare.gov will be more closely tied, and sympathetic to, the Iranian regime than anyone expected. 11. In a final analysis, repairing the glitches in the Healthcare. gov website will be found to have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands. 12. Eventually, the GOP presidential contender most closely associated with opposing the Affordable Care Act — Ted Cruz, I

LOOKING FORWARD IN ANGST

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Perhaps I should have specified this from the outset, but in case you haven’t already figured this out, the Iraq War was a war and Healthcare.gov is a website.” guess — will become the Republican nominee and get swept into office on Election Night. That’s when Obama will suffer “Bush’s fate.” I guess that means neither the president or anyone in his administration or party will ever be held accountable for any of this, and the president himself will retire and become a wealthy celebrity who paints dogs and wants for nothing. When you think about it, that’s a good reason to hope that Healthcare.gov becomes exactly like the Iraq War. I mean, I’m ready to start a dumb war or build a glitchy website in exchange for some of that la dolce vita right now! Should all of these things happen, I feel confident that we will be on totally safe ground, comparing the Healthcare.gov website to the Iraq War. Though to be honest, we will only know for sure that the analogy is apt, when President Cruz starts a pointless, costly war and everyone in the media says that it’s totally like that time somebody built a website to help people buy health insurance.


Q&A

FROM TOP: ARI PERILSTEIN/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES; ZACH CORDNER/INVISION/AP

Enter

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Neil Patrick Harris on Why He Decided to Come Out “For me, I fell in love with a dude and started spending all my time with him, and therefore you don’t want to be suppressive of that.”

Above: Neil Patrick Harris, fiancé David Burtka and family at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in July. Below: Harris poses for a portrait at the Magic Castle in September.

FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW, VISIT HUFFPOST LIVE


DATA

Enter

Where Prisons are Guaranteed

SOURCES: IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST, BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS

GEO (GEO GROUP, INC.) GEO operates private corrections, detention and mental health treatment facilities in North America, Australia, South Africa and the UK. The group owns or manages 96 facilities worldwide, totaling approximately 73,000 beds. This week, they acquired two contracts in Florida, adding 1,970 beds to its business.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Lockup quotas ensure that private prisons turn a profit. If a certain number of beds aren’t filled, states must pay the prison companies for the unused beds – leaving taxpayers footing the bill for lower crime rates. Here are prisons with contracts that guarantee occupancy of 90 percent or more. — Katy Hall

CCA (CORRECTIONS CORP. OF AMERICA) CCA is the largest private corrections company in the U.S., managing more than 67 facilities that can hold 92,500 beds. It has seen its revenue rise by more than 500 percent in the past two years, according to Mother Jones.

MTC (MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING CORP.) MTC manages private prisons and provides vocational training across the country. After an incident in 2010 when three violent inmates escaped from one of their Arizona prisons, state corrections officials stopped sending new inmates the 3,300-bed facility. MTC threatened to sue the state, citing a line in their contract that guaranteed the prison would remain 97 percent full. State officials renegotiated the contract, but ended up paying $3 million for empty beds as the company continued to address problems.

Imprisonment rate of sentenced state or federal prisoners per 100,000 U.S. residents, 2011 0-149

150-299

300-449

450-599

600+


HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES (LOU REED DEAD); CIA OFFICIAL PORTRAIT (EX-SPY CHIEF GETS SPIED ON); MATT SLEDGE, THE HUFFINGTON POST (A DRONE KILLED MY MOTHER); DOUG COLLIER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (FAVRE)

Enter

HEADLINES

10.29.13 10.27.13

10.25.13

10.25.13

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

The Week That Was TAP IMAGE TO ENLARGE, TAP EACH DATE FOR FULL ARTICLE ON THE HUFFINGTON POST


Enter

Toronto, Ontario 10.24.2013

ANDREW FRANCIS WALLACE/GETTY IMAGES

Two 6th-grade ballet students receive instruction from their teacher at the National Ballet School. This is the first time in its 54-year history that the school has received such a high enrollment of boys.

PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Bani Jamrah, Bahrain 10.23.2013 A Bahrani protester runs away from tear gas during a riot following the funeral of Ali Khalil Sabbagh. Sabbagh, 17, died when a bomb he was making blew up, according to Bahrani police. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


CHRIS RATCLIFFE/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

Enter

London, England 10.24.2013 A construction worker clears water inside a tunnel at the Stepney Green interchange underneath London. The tunnel is a part of the Crossrail system, a U.K. government project to develop a high-speed rail network from west to east London. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


DANIEL BORN/THE TIMES/GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Pilanesberg, South Africa 10.23.2013 A rhino gets tagged and DNA-tested at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve as part of the park’s anti-poaching initiative. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Sao Paulo, Brazil 10.25.2013 Protesters flee as a bus burns after a demonstration against rising public transportation costs. Demonstrators also demanded better public services. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


SALIH ZEKI FAZLIOGLU /ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Jerusalem 10.22.2013 Khaled al-Zeer al-Husaini, 39, cries and clutches his daughter in his cave in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. The Palestinian and his family began living in the cave after their house was destroyed by Israeli forces. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Maisons-Alfort, France 10.23.2013 An employee of the Alforme animal re-education center of the National Veterinary Academy assists a dog balancing on an exercise ball. Many dogs are undergoing post-surgery hydrotherapy or physiotherapy in order to regain mobility. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


BUDA MENDES/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Rio de Janiero, Brazil 10.26.2013 Young boys play soccer in the Vila Nova Project of the Morro dos Macacos neighborhood of Rio. The two-year-old project was founded by Alex Sandro to serve the children and young residents of the surrounding areas. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Enter

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Baikonur, Kazakhstan 10.28.2013 U.S. astronaut Rick Mastracchio attends preflight training in the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome. Mastracchio is scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station on Nov. 7 with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


CHRIS SO/GETTY IMAGES

Enter

Toronto, Ontario 10.21.2013 Physiotherapist Nikolay Niagolov (left) and assistant physiotherapist Judylin Co work with 5-year-old Zain Khalid, who has level 5 cerebral palsy. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Enter

AP PHOTO/LEE JIN-MAN

Seoul, South Korea 10.24.2013 Members of the South Korean Air Force honor guard throw their guns in the air during a press day for the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition. The guard members will perform in an air show during the exhibition at Cheongju International Airport. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Enter

AP PHOTO/PETROS GIANNAKOURIS

Athens, Greece 10.24.2013 A worker carries a metal frame as he walks on a scaffolding in central Athens. Thousands of workers from Greece’s largest labor union have called for a general strike on Nov. 6 to halt the contentious spending cuts imposed by Greece’s 240 billion-euro ($325 billion) bailout agreements. Tap here for a more extensive look at the week on The Huffington Post. PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

MOVING IMAGE

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Voices

PETRA COLLINS

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

PETRA COLLINS

Why Instagram Censored My Body I WASN’T SHOCKED at the reaction I received from my t-shirt for American Apparel. I’m used to being told by society that I must regulate my body to fit the norm. I’m used to the fact that images of unaltered women are seen as unacceptable. I’ve taught myself to ignore it (as much as I can) and through the Internet (via sites like ROOKIE) and social media platforms (like Instagram and Facebook) I’ve been able to freely share images and start discussions about these issues. Recently, I had my Instagram account deleted. I did nothing that violated the terms of use. No nudity, violence, pornography, unlawful, hateful or infringing imagery. What I did have was an image of MY body that didn’t meet society’s stan-

dard of “femininity.” The image I posted was from the waist down wearing a bathing suit bottom in front of a sparkly backdrop. Unlike the 5,883,628 (this is how many images are tagged #bikini) bathing suit images on Instagram

The image that got Petra Collins kicked off of Instagram.


Voices (see here and here) mine depicted my own unaltered state — an unshaven bikini line. Up until this moment, I had obviously seen and felt the pressure to regulate my body, but never thought I would literally experience it. I’m used to seeing female bodies perfected and aspects concealed in the media (i.e., in hair removal ads for women, hair is NEVER shown). I wasn’t surprised when TMZ requested to interview me about my t-shirt, but then cancelled because the image was “too explicit for television” — whereas during Rihanna’s abuse scandal, her beaten face was broadcasted hundreds of times. I’m used to seeing women being degraded, slut shamed, harassed for what they look like. Even the most powerful women in the world are measured by their appearance and constantly ridiculed for it. I’m used to one of the biggest media outlets calling a 9-year old girl a “cunt” (with the intention of being “satirical”). I’m used to hearing the top played songs on the radio tell me “I know you want it — just let me liberate you,” “You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful,” “Put molly all in her champagne/ She ain’t even know it / I took her

PETRA COLLINS

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Unlike the 5,883,628 bathing suit images on Instagram mine depicted my own unaltered state — an unshaven bikini line.” home and I enjoyed that/ She ain’t even know it.” I’m used to seeing blockbuster movies get a rating of NC-17 because a woman is shown receiving pleasure — while movies that feature men receiving pleasure get ratings as low as PG. I’m used to seeing cover after cover featuring stories about a popular celebrity being fat-shamed during pregnancy. I’m used to seeing reviews of an award show performance that critiques a female singer for being “slutty,” but then fails to even mention the older male behind her. I’m used to reading articles about whole towns harassing a rape victim until she’s forced to leave. I don’t want to be used to this. I don’t want to have to see the same thing constantly. I don’t want to be desensitized to what’s happening around me all. the.time. I consider myself endlessly lucky to have access to the Internet and technology. Through it I’ve found myself and have been able to join a new discourse of females young and old who strive to change the way we look and treat ourselves. I know having a social


Voices media profile removed is a 21stcentury, privileged problem — but it is the way a lot of us live. These profiles mimic our physical selves and a lot of the time are even more important. They are ways to connect with an audience, to start discussion, and to create change. Through this removal, I really felt how strong of a distrust and hate we have towards female bodies. The deletion of my account felt like a physical act, like the public coming at me with a razor, sticking their finger down my throat, forcing me to cover up, forcing me to succumb to society’s image of beauty. That these very real pressures we face everyday can turn into literal censorship. If the Internet mimics real life, then there is no doubt that real life can mimic it. That if we allow ourselves to be silenced or censored, it can happen in real life too. That if an online society of people can censor your body, what stops them from doing so in real life? This is already happening, you experience this every day. When someone catcalls at you, yells “SLUT,” comments on all your Facebook photos calling you “disgusting,” tries to physically violate you, spreads private nude images of you to a mass

PETRA COLLINS

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

I’m used to seeing cover after cover featuring stories about a popular celebrity being fat-shamed during pregnancy... I don’t want to be used to this.” amount of people via text, calls you ugly, tells you to change your body, tells you are not perfect, this cannot continue to be our reality. To all the young girls and women, do not let this discourage you, do not let anyone tell you what you should look like, tell you how to be, tell you that you do not own your body. Even if society tries to silence you keep on going, keep moving forward, keep creating revolutionary work, and keep this discourse alive. To those who reported me, to those who are disgusted by my body, to those who commented “horrible” or “disgusting” on an image of ME, I want you to thoughtfully dissect your own reaction to these things, please think about WHY you felt this way, WHY this image was so shocking, WHY you have no tolerance for it. Hopefully you will come to understand that it might not be you thinking these things but society telling you how to think. Petra Collins is a Toronto-born artist and the founder and curator of The Ardorous.


HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

COURTESY OF ANDI SLIGH

Voices

ANDI SLIGH

How My Children Have Helped Me Become Perfectly Human

I

was raised to achieve things. ¶ I was a third-generation valedictorian of my high school class, like my mother before me and her mother before her. Both of my parents have master’s degrees. Growing up, I was The Smart Kid, voted Most Likely to Succeed. I went to college, earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, started climbing the corporate ladder, and went back for an MBA. ¶ Then my daughter, Sarah Kate, was born. ¶ She was premature, small even for her gestational age and fragile. But she survived and today she is a healthy 10-year-old — with cerebral palsy. The diagnosis was a blow, and as much as I love being her mom, in the beginning I felt cheated. I had done

Sarah Kate and Nathan have cerebral palsy and Down syndrome, respectively.


Voices everything right, I thought — I followed the rules, made good grades, worked hard, and took care of my body. Overnight, my career was derailed, my two degrees seemed worthless, and my dreams of soccer games were crushed. I struggled with the unfairness of it all. I didn’t want my daughter to have to struggle; I didn’t want to be the odd man out at playdates and birthday parties; I didn’t want us to stand out like a sore thumb and field questions about what was “wrong” with her everywhere we went. When I was able to be grateful, however, I was thankful for the one thing I had hoped and prayed for before she was born: she was smart. When I thought about how Sarah Kate will always struggle with actions most people take for granted, like running and jumping, I reassured myself that she might never earn a sports scholarship, but she’d be sure to earn an academic one. When she was only 4, at an evaluation to determine whether or not her developmental delays would qualify her for services, the special education administrator noted that she thought Sarah Kate was probably gifted.

ANDI SLIGH

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

I was proud that my daughter would also be The Smart Kid. Then my son, Nathan, was born. We enjoyed a few moments of ignorant bliss after his birth before we learned what the doctors suspected — he had Down syndrome. As with Sarah Kate’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy, Nathan’s diagnosis of Down syndrome was a blow. I couldn’t un-

As with Sarah Kate’s diagnosis of cerebral palsy, Nathan’s diagnosis of Down syndrome was a blow. I couldn’t understand why God would send us not one, but two, children with disabilities.” derstand why God would send us not one, but two, children with disabilities. It seemed almost a cruel joke on me, because the one thing I was certain Nathan would never be was smart. It took four decades for me to accept that success and achievement in the way our society views them are not only not essential, but also not important.


COURTESY OF ANDI SLIGH

Voices

My daughter isn’t a star athlete, but she does participate in sports — softball and swim team — and I’ve seen firsthand the impact she has on others simply by showing up. My son spreads joy and sunshine everywhere he goes. They know him by name and give him free baked goods at our local supermarket. It’s amazing to me how often I hear other people exclaim, “I love that little guy!” When I became a mom, I thought my job was to mold and shape my children into their best selves. To my surprise, my children have molded and shaped me. I no longer am afraid to speak up in defense of others,

ANDI SLIGH

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

The diagnosis was a blow, and as much as I love being her mom, in the beginning I felt cheated.” and my lifelong struggle with perfectionism is (mostly) a thing of the past. I value virtues like compassion and patience more than success and achievement. My children’s disabilities challenged my thinking and reordered my values. Simply put, my children molded and shaped me into a better — more perfectly human — version of myself. Andi Sligh is the author of There’s Sunshine Behind the Clouds: Surviving the Early Years.

Andi Sligh with her children, Sarah Kate and Nathan.


Voices

QUOTED

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

“The news I feared the most, pales in comparison to the lump in my throat and the hollow in my stomach.” — The Velvet Underground’s John Cale on Lou Reed’s death

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: AMERICAN BROADCASTING COMPANIES,/GETTY IMAGES; STEFAN M. PRAGER/REDFERNS VIA GETTY IMAGES; PETER KRAMER/NBC/NBC NEWSWIRE/GETTY IMAGES

“This was the first TV family that even remotely resembled my, or any family on my block.” — HuffPost commenter TIM315 on “Celebrate The 25th Anniversary Of ‘Roseanne’”

“They found Dick Cheny’s [sic] first pace maker.”

— HuffPost commenter leucippus67 on “Pre-Viking Age Monuments Unearthed Near Burial Ground In Sweden”

“Until we stop making women responsible for male morality, we won’t get far with reducing rape.”

— HuffPost commenter Nightofhunters on “Emily Yoffe Joins ‘Don’t Drink And Vagina’ Campaign”


CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: AP PHOTO/MARK LENNIHAN; POLK COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE; ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES; MIKE MARSLAND/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES

Voices

QUOTED

“Junkies find veins in their toes when their arms and legs go out. We are now at a point where we are going after dangerous and dirty fuels.”

— Al Gore,

on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline

“Sometimes it makes me feel guilty now that I am in this profession that makes certain girls insecure.”

— Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes

to the New York Post, on being Photoshopped in magazines

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

“My dad always said that if you follow a bully home, you will see that the parents are bullies as well.”

— HuffPost commenter John_Hazelton_Smith

on “Vivian Vosburg, Stepmom Of Girl Accused In Rebecca Sedwick Bullying Suicide, Arrested For Child Abuse”

“I will not yield to this monkey court!”

— Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), at a hearing on the

Obamacare site glitches, after being asked to yield to Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tx.), accusing Republicans of “trying to scare people” to prevent them from enrolling in Obamacare


THE PALM BEACH POST/ZUMAPRESS.COM

11.03.13 #73 FEATURES

PRISONERS OF PROFIT: A TWO-PART SERIES


P

R

O

F

P

R O

P A

B Y

I

S

O

N

F

I

T

R T

C

H

E

R S

A PRIVATE PRISON EMPIRE’S STARTLING RECORD OF JUVENILE ABUSE

1

R

I

S

K

I

R

K

H

A

M


RICHARD LEE / NEWSDAY

FROM A GLANCE AT HIS BACKGROUND, one might assume that James F. Slattery would have a difficult time convincing any state in America to entrust him with the supervision of its lawbreaking youth. œ Over the past quarter century, Slattery’s for-profit prison enterprises have run afoul of the Justice Department and authorities in New York, Florida, Maryland, Nevada and Texas for alleged offenses ranging from condoning abuse of inmates to plying politicians with undisclosed gifts while seeking to secure state contracts. Federal Bureau of Prisons official Del Matthews (left) with James Slattery at a meeting with community residents in March 1989.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

In 2001, an 18-year-old committed to a Texas boot camp operated by one of Slattery’s previous companies, Correctional Services Corp., came down with pneumonia and pleaded to see a doctor as he struggled to breathe. Guards accused the teen of faking it and forced him to do pushups in his own vomit, according to Texas law enforcement reports. After nine days of medical neglect, he died. That same year, auditors in Maryland found that staff at one of Slattery’s juvenile facilities coaxed inmates to fight on Saturday mornings as a way to settle disputes from earlier in the week. In recent years, the company has failed to report riots, assaults and claims of sexual abuse at its juvenile prisons in Florida, according to a review of state records and accounts from former employees and inmates. Despite that history, Slattery’s current company, Youth Services International, has retained and even expanded its contracts to operate juvenile prisons in several

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

states. The company has capitalized on budgetary strains across the country as governments embrace privatization in pursuit of cost savings. Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s juvenile delinquents are today committed to private facilities, according to the most recent federal data from 2011, up from about 33 percent 12 years earlier. Over the past two decades, more than 40,000 boys and girls in 16 states have gone through one of Slattery’s prisons, boot camps or detention centers, according to a Huffington Post analysis of juvenile facility data. The private prison industry has long fueled its growth on the proposition that it is a boon to taxpayers, delivering better outcomes at lower costs than state facilities. But significant evidence undermines that argument: the tendency of young people to return to crime once they get out, for example, and long-term contracts that can leave states obligated to fill pris-

The Huffington Post uploaded and annotated the documents — including court transcripts, police reports, audits and inspection records — uncovered during this investigation. Browse the documents behind this report.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

on beds. The harsh conditions confronting youth inside YSI’s facilities, moreover, show the serious problems that can arise when government hands over social services to private contractors and essentially walks away. Those held at YSI facilities across the country have frequent-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

In Florida, where private contractors have in recent years taken control of all of the state’s 3,300 youth prison beds, YSI now manages more than $100 million in contracts, about 10 percent of the system. Its facilities have generated conspicuously large numbers of claims that guards have assaulted

Those held at YSI facilities across the country have frequently faced beatings, neglect, sexual abuse and unsanitary food over the past two decades. ly faced beatings, neglect, sexual abuse and unsanitary food over the past two decades, according to a HuffPost investigation that included interviews with 14 former employees and a review of thousands of pages of state audits, lawsuits, local police reports and probes by state and federal agencies. Out of more than 300 institutions surveyed, a YSI detention center in Georgia had the highest rate of youth alleging sexual assaults in the country, according to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

youth, according to a HuffPost compilation of state reports. A YSI facility in Palm Beach County had the highest rate of reported sexual assaults out of 36 facilities reviewed in Florida, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report found. The state’s sweeping privatization of its juvenile incarceration system has produced some of the worst re-offending rates in the nation. More than 40 percent of youth offenders sent to one of Florida’s juvenile prisons wind up arrested and convicted of another crime within a year of their release, according to state data. In New York state, where historically no youth offenders have been held in private institutions, 25


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

percent are convicted again within that timeframe. Slattery and other Youth Services International executives declined interview requests over several months. In an emailed response to written questions, a senior vice president, Jesse Williams, asserted that the company carefully looks after its charges and delivers value to taxpayers. “We are the best operators in the state of Florida, and that is why we continue to have contracts awarded to us,” Williams said. “While there have been occasional issues, we are inspected regularly and overwhelmingly receive positive reports.” He added that the company has introduced “independent, thirdparty reviews” of the programs listed in the Bureau of Justice Statistics report and has engaged national experts on prison sexual abuse in an effort to improve conditions. More than a decade has passed since a Florida judge tonguelashed Correctional Services Corp., Slattery’s former company, during a hearing convened to probe widespread complaints of violence at one of its facilities two hours north of Miami. Juvenile Judge Ron Alvarez was so horri-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

fied by the descriptions of that particular institution — a fetid, graffiti-covered jail called the Pahokee Youth Development Center — that he compared it to a “Third World country that is controlled by ... some type of evil power.” In a recent interview, the same judge expressed amazement that Slattery has continued to run facilities in Florida right up to the present day. “I don’t know how the hell they still have business with the state,” Alvarez said. This is how.

FORGING CONNECTIONS A one-time New York City hotelier who began renting out rooms to prisoners in 1989, Slattery has established a dominant perch in the juvenile corrections business through an astute cultivation of political connections and a crafty gaming of the private contracting system. Even as reports of negligence and poor treatment of inmates have piled up, his companies have kept their records clean by habitually pulling out of contracts before the government takes official action, HuffPost found. In Florida, his companies have exploited lax state oversight while leaning on powerful allies inside the government to keep the con-


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

tracts flowing. Slattery, his wife, Diane, and other executives have been prodigious political rainmakers in Florida, donating more than $400,000 to state candidates and committees over the last 15 years, according to HuffPost’s review. The recipient of the largest share of those dollars was the Florida Republican Party, which took in more than $276,000 in that time.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Among the company’s lobbyists in Tallahassee is Jonathan Costello, who served as legislative affairs director for Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 and 2012. Gary Rutledge, another YSI lobbyist, served on Scott’s inaugural committee after his 2010 victory. “We regularly hire companies that have abysmal track records of performance, but great track re-

Juvenile Judge Ron Alvarez was so horrified by the descriptions of [The Pahokee Youth Development Center] that he compared it to a “Third World country that is controlled by ... some type of evil power.” Former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, an avid supporter of prison privatization, received more than $15,000 from company executives during state and federal races. The company has given more in Florida over the past 15 years than the combined donations of Office Depot and Darden Restaurants, Inc., two of the state’s largest Fortune 500 corporations.

cords of political campaign contributions,” said Dan Gelber, a former Florida senator and state representative who has been critical of the state’s juvenile justice policies. Williams, the YSI spokesman, said the company is “committed to supporting people who we believe will be effective in a political position, regardless of whether they would have an impact in our industry.” Lobbyists, he added, “can be extremely helpful” in “clarifying to legislators the realities of the operations of juvenile facilities.”


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

A former executive who worked with Slattery for five years in Florida said the company’s success in the state reflected two areas of expertise — relentless cost-cutting and political gamesmanship. “There was always the sense that I was working for a businessman who didn’t understand the system of juvenile justice,” said the former executive, who spoke on condition he not be named. “My mandate was to cut positions, cut programs, look for efficiencies — all the while making sure that the state we were contracting with remained happy. I always felt like there was more priority at the highest level given to managing political relationships than running the core of the business.” Over the years, YSI has brought in seasoned former government bureaucrats who are savvy about the often arcane federal and state processes through which private companies secure contracts to run public facilities. The company’s executive vice president, Woodrow Harper, is a former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice – now the company’s primary source of revenue. “It’s everything that’s wrong with

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS FROM PRIVATE FIRMS Political contributions in the state of Florida since 1998 from contractors who handled residential facilities for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

$8,000 Universal Health Services

$7,000

$418,110 Youth Services International

Gulf Coast Youth Services

$6,700

Eckerd Youth Alternatives

$1,600 Twin Oaks Juvenile Development

$1,000

Three Springs

$28,110 G4S Youth Services

$7,400 Vision Quest

$6,850 Henry & Rilla White Foundation

$2,000 Premier Behavorial Solutions

$1,155 Gateway Community Services

politics rolled up in a package,” said Evan Jenne, a former Florida state representative who toured one of YSI’s youth facilities after local public defenders raised concerns. “You’re talking about society failing children. It’s politically motivated, and it’s money-motivated.” Officials at the state Department of Juvenile Justice did not respond to questions about YSI. A department spokeswoman, Meghan Speakes Collins, pointed


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

to overall improvements the state has made in its contract monitoring process, such as conducting more interviews with randomly selected youth to get a better understanding of conditions and analyzing problematic trends such as high staff turnover. “Our primary concern is the health and safety of the youth in our care and we take any allegation of misconduct very seriously,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “We have a comprehensive reporting system in which any incident is thoroughly investigated and corrective action is taken as necessary.” Experts say the continued growth of for-profit prison operators like Youth Services International amounts to a cautionary tale about the perils of privatization: In a drive to cut costs, Florida has effectively abdicated its responsibility for some of its most troubled children, leaving them in the hands of companies focused solely on the bottom line. “One of the problems with private corrections is that you are trying to squeeze profit margins out of an economic picture that doesn’t allow for very much,” said Bart Lubow, a leading juvenile justice expert who heads the Annie E.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. “So you either hire people for minimum wage who are afraid of the environment in which they work, or you don’t feed people properly. There are not a lot of margins.”

RATS IN A MAZE Florida logs reports of serious incidents that occur inside its juvenile prisons, but the state does not maintain a database that allows for the analysis of trends across the system. HuffPost obtained the documents through Florida’s public records law and compiled incident reports logged between 2008 and 2012. According to the data, YSI’s facilities generated a disproportionate share of reports of prison staff allegedly injuring youth offenders by using excessive force. Although YSI oversaw only about 9 percent of the state’s juvenile jail beds during the past five years, the company was responsible for nearly 15 percent of all reported cases of excessive force and injured youths. In 2012, 23 incidents of excessive force were reported at YSI facilities. By comparison, G4S Youth Services — the state’s largest private provider of youth prison beds — generated 21 such


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

reports, despite overseeing nearly three times as many beds. Among the other key findings from HuffPost’s investigation: Staff underreport serious incidents such as major fights and staff assaults in an effort to keep the state in the dark and avoid additional scrutiny — a viola-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

fails to document such incidents. Staff turnover at YSI’s prisons is rampant, leaving inexperienced guards to manage a tough population. At YSI facilities, food is often in short supply and frequently undercooked. Youth interviewed by HuffPost recounted being

Even as reports of negligence and poor treatment of inmates have piled up, his companies have kept their records clean by habitually pulling out of contracts before the government takes official action, HuffPost found. tion of the company’s contracts as well as Department of Juvenile Justice rules requiring that contracted staff report such incidents to state authorities. Though state guidelines prohibit “unnecessarily harsh or indecent treatment,” YSI guards have frequently resorted to violence in confrontations with youth, slapping and choking inmates and sometimes fracturing bones, according to police reports. Former employees told HuffPost that YSI often

served bloody, raw chicken and sometimes finding flies inside pre-cooked dishes. In order to get enough food, youth are allowed to gamble through card games and sports bets while trading “picks” — the right to take someone else’s food at the next meal. Former employees recall going without basic supplies such as toilet paper, deodorant and tampons — also violations of department policy. They say they lacked the funds to provide activities for the youth held in YSI’s prisons. “We were kept like rats in a trap, in a maze,” said Angela Phil-


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

lips, a former shift supervisor at Broward Girls Academy in Pembroke Pines, northwest of Miami. “There was no outlet and no stimulation, so they would just turn on each other, and turn on staff. That’s how it was day in, day out.” The company spokesman, Jesse Williams, dismissed claims that YSI fails to report incidents, saying the company always complies with state guidelines. “Our reporting process is the best in the industry,” he said. He argued that YSI’s employee turnover rate and salaries are in line with the industry average. “The job is a difficult one,” he said. “Despite our best efforts to assess a candidate’s fitness for the position, which include employment and background screening and proper training, we don’t know of their true suitability until they are well into the job.” Local public defenders and groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center have for years forwarded concerns about YSI facilities to the state, but Florida has done little to investigate allegations of verbal and physical abuse. In the summer of 2012, after the Broward County Public Defender’s Office sent a letter to

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

the Department of Juvenile Justice outlining issues with food and fighting at a different facility, the state inspector handed out a pro-forma questionnaire to about 20 boys there. Last year, the state declined to renew YSI’s contract for that program, a 154-bed facility called Thompson Academy where state officials over the years had documented frequent violence and failures to report serious incidents. But that decision was not due to poor performance, according to a letter the state sent to the company in August 2012. Indeed, this year, the state awarded YSI another contract to manage a facility less than a mile away. “I always think it’s ironic that you can’t get a job as a janitor for the Department of Juvenile Justice — understandably so — if you have any kind of conviction on your record,” said Marie Osborne, the chief juvenile public defender

Former inmate Chelsea Fernandez talks about her time at YSI’s Broward Girls Academy. Tap here for the full discussion on HuffPost Live.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

in Miami-Dade County, who has followed YSI for more than a decade. “They’re scrupulous with individual employees, but a corporation can have this corporate rap sheet, and it’s no problem. They can get contracts.”

GOVERNMENT POCKETS Before James Slattery came to embody the for-profit corrections business, he built a career in another industry that thrives on high occupancy rates: hotels. A graduate of St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., Slattery worked for the Sheraton Hotel corporation beginning in the 1970s. While working at a hotel in Queens, Slattery became close to his boss’s son, Morris Horn. The two joined forces with other investors to start a property management company, buying up older hotels across New York City. But as New York’s real estate market dried up in the 1980s amid fears of crime, Slattery and his business partners began searching for more rewarding pursuits. They discovered the growing — and lucrative — world of doing business with the government. With President Ronald Reagan

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

in office, the 1980s marked one of the first major movements toward the privatization of government services. Outsourcing government functions to private companies was widely embraced as a means of seeking taxpayer relief. His administration and some in Congress floated the idea of privatizing U.S. Customs inspections, electrical power utilities and, eventually, the management of federal prison systems. In New York City, property owners learned that if they opened up their buildings to growing numbers of homeless people and families on welfare, they could capture local and federal anti-poverty dollars — a steady stream of revenue. So-called welfare hotels proliferated, becoming de facto warehouses for people grappling with mental illness, drug addiction and extreme poverty. The hotels were among the most squalid buildings in the city, racking up hundreds of code violations. Slattery’s company managed a particularly notorious example, the Brooklyn Arms, a once-lavish hotel across from the Brooklyn Academy of Music that had deteriorated into a ramshackle blight on the neighborhood. The property was infested with rodents and cockroaches, and some rooms lacked running water.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

A PRISON EMPIRE THROUGH THE YEARS

NUMBER OF FACILITIES

For more then a decade, James F. Slattery focused largely on incarcerating adults and undocumented immigrants through his for-profit prison business. In 2005, he sold off the adult division and shifted entirely into the juvenile market.

TOTAL NUMBER OF PRISON BEDS NUMBER OF YOUTH PRISON BEDS

TAP DATES FOR ADDITIONAL TEXT

2013

2012

14 904 904

2011

2013

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

1998

1997

1996

0

1995

2K

1994

4K

1993

6K

1992

8K

1991

10K

1990

1989 12K


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

In 1986, two young men scuffling in a hallway in the Brooklyn Arms fell down a broken elevator shaft and plunged 15 stories to their deaths. A few weeks later, four children who had been left alone at the hotel for hours died in a fire. By 1989, Mayor Ed Koch’s administration had succeeded in closing many of the city’s crime-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Slattery and Horn called the new company Esmor, Inc. They laid out ambitious expansion goals that included running a variety of facilities that would house federal prisoners, undocumented immigrants and juvenile delinquents. “We saw a significant demand,” Slattery told Forbes magazine in 1995, “and limited supply.”

“It’s everything that’s wrong with politics rolled up in a package. You’re talking about society failing children. It’s politically motivated, and it’s money-motivated.” ridden welfare hotels, including the Brooklyn Arms. Slattery’s management group soon set its sights on a new pot of government money: prison halfway houses. Slattery and Horn proposed leasing out floors of their hotels as re-entry housing for newly released federal inmates, taking advantage of a surge in prison populations nationwide. In 1989, one of their hotels, a midtown Manhattan property called LeMarquis, opened some of its rooms to federal inmates.

As federal prison officials awarded Esmor an emergency contract to operate a halfway house in Brooklyn, local community leaders challenged the decision, questioning why the same people who had managed problem-plagued welfare hotels should be given fresh responsibility. “We do not want that group doing anything up here because they are not trustworthy and do not deserve our support,” Democratic New York state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery said at a community meeting in 1989, according to Newsday. Less than three years after Es-


MISHA ERWITT/NY DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

mor opened LeMarquis to former inmates, federal inspectors from the Bureau of Prisons found that parts of the building were turning to ruin. Inspectors documented “low-paid, untrained employees, poor building conditions, from vermin and leaky plumbing to exposed electrical wires and other fire hazards, and inadequate, barely edible food.” Federal prison officials were close to canceling the contract in 1992, according to media accounts at the time, but they said condi-

tions at the facility started to improve after frequent inspections. In a federal lawsuit, one LeMarquis employee, Richard Moore, alleged that he had been severely beaten by another employee — at the direction of management — after he reported poor conditions to federal inspectors. In another federal lawsuit, four female inmates asserted that they had been raped and assaulted by Esmor’s “resident advocate” — the employee who was supposed to protect inmates by handling their grievances. The female inmates’ cases were settled; Moore’s case

New York City Mayor Ed Koch (left) with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at a press conference discussing the plight of the homeless in the wake of four deaths at the Brooklyn Arms Welfare Hotel in 1986.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

was administratively closed, after he became ill. By the mid-1990s, Esmor had expanded far beyond its New York City origins, winning contracts to manage a boot camp for young boys and adults outside of Forth Worth, Texas, and immigration detention centers in New Jersey and Washington state. As the company grew and sought more contracts, executives hired knowledgeable government insiders. In New York, Esmor added political associates linked to U.S. Rep. Edolphus Towns, a Democrat who represented the Brooklyn district where the company ran one of its first federal halfway houses. Fueling a push into the immigration detention business, Esmor brought on Richard P. Staley, a former acting director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s central office in Washington, D.C., and added to its board Stuart M. Gerson, a former U.S. attorney general. At the time, the Justice Department oversaw both the INS and the Bureau of Prisons — two of Esmor’s biggest customers. The company also hired James C. Poland, who had worked in the Texas prison system, where Esmor was angling for new contracts.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

All of these recruits positioned the company for winnings. In 1994, Slattery and his partners cashed in with an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange valued at $5.2 million. Just a year after going public, a riot broke out at Esmor’s immigration detention center near Newark International Airport in New Jersey, a holding tank for immigrants caught trying to enter the country illegally. As an organized group of inmates began to assault guards, staff abandoned their posts and fled the jail. An INS official on site ordered the guards to go back in to quell the riot, but they refused. The detainees eventually took over the facility, using pieces of tables and chairs to break through security glass and destroy much of its interior. It took nearly five hours for outside authorities to regain control. In a statement after the riot, Slattery said Esmor was “deeply disturbed and appalled by the apparent conduct” of some employees at the facility. But the company characterized the incident as a “local problem not reflected in any of its operations elsewhere around the country.” A subsequent INS investigation found that staff training by Esmor had been abysmal. Guards


“They’d never try to do anything, they’d never try to help us, to keep our minds occupied. We were always bored, which caused a lot of drama.” Destinee Bowers, 19, poses at her home on May 29, 2013, in Orlando, Fla.

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS McGONIGAL


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

taunted and humiliated inmates, and Esmor frequently failed to alert the INS about staff turnover issues. According to an INS interview with a facility administrator, Esmor’s corporate policy was to “keep INS in the dark as much as possible about any problems or incidents which occurred.” Joyce Antila Phipps, an immigration attorney who had several clients at the Newark facility, recalled many complaints about male guards peering into female group showers. The report found that many detainees also refused to board their deportation flights, because Esmor guards hadn’t returned their money and valuables. “There was a total lack of training of the staff,” Phipps said. “And on top of that, the staff knew they could get away with murder, so they robbed people blind.” The INS concluded in its investigation that Esmor’s management was marked by “a continuing cycle of contract violations”and a “general failure to follow sound management practices.” But the INS did not fine Esmor or cancel its contract to manage the facility. Instead, the agency allowed Esmor to turn that contract into $6 million in cash, selling it

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

to a rival prison giant, the Corrections Corporation of America.

SUNSHINE STATE DYSFUNCTION Even before his operations in the northeast were tarnished by the detention center uprising, Slattery was looking to move Esmor’s headquarters south, to the Gulf Coast of Florida. In 1996, he changed the company’s name to Correctional Services Corp. Slattery had already won several contracts to operate youth facilities in the Sunshine State before the immigrant riot, and Florida looked to be a ripe base for expansion. Beginning in the late 1980s, the state had started handing its juvenile inmates to private companies in an effort to cut costs. By the following decade, this business opportunity was growing swiftly. Beset by a run of murders by teenagers that had spooked the public, Florida began intensifying the penalties facing juvenile offenders. The state asked for bids from private companies, anticipating a major buildout of juvenile prisons. In 1995, Slattery won two contracts to operate facilities in Florida. The two new prisons were originally intended to house boys between 14 and 19 who had been criminally convicted as adults. But the state


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

realized it had enough beds for that population already, so the Department of Juvenile Justice began placing some of its delinquent boys in the facilities — youth who were meant to be housed in far less punitive settings. In a news release announcing the groundbreaking for the prisons, Slattery called the new fa-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Recruiting qualified local staff was a challenge, however, particularly at the rates the company was offering — $15,995 per year. The Pahokee facility opened to youth in early 1997. Within months, local judges were hearing complaints about abusive staff, prison-like conditions and food full of maggots, according to recent in-

In a drive to cut costs, Florida has effectively abdicated its responsibility for some of its most troubled children, leaving them in the hands of companies focused solely on the bottom line. cilities “the future of American corrections.” Among the new Correctional Services Corp. prisons was the Pahokee Youth Development Center, which sat in the middle of sugarcane fields in a rural, swampy part of the state northwest of Miami. Local leaders welcomed the economic development opportunities that came with prison construction. Pahokee Mayor Ramon Horta Jr. even joined the company as a project manager.

terviews and state audits and court transcripts from the time. Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Tom Petersen drove an hour and a half to Pahokee in 1997 and started snapping pictures. As a juvenile judge, he thought he was sending boys to a moderate-risk program with outdoor wilderness activities. What he found was a hardcore prison. “I came back with all those pictures and I raised hell about it,” Petersen recalled in an interview. He saw small 12-year-olds confined alongside much stronger 17-year-olds. Boys were served


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

food he called “inedible.” That same year, local public defenders asked another judge to move children from Pahokee into a less punitive program. Followup reviews by state-contracted auditors confirmed the operation was dysfunctional. One youth with unpaid prison gambling debts had been so severely beaten by three others that he required surgery to have

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

rats and mice scurrying from the fields. The reviews said the facility wasn’t paying enough for pest control to manage the influx. A special state monitoring report from October 1998 found medical records showing “instances of youth being bitten by spiders and rodents.” Monitors from the state also found that Correctional Services Corp. officials were holding youth

In order to get enough food, youth are allowed to gamble through card games and sports bets while trading “picks” — the right to take someone else’s food at the next meal. his spleen removed. In a separate incident, four staff members, including two managers, allowed two boys who had a disagreement to fight for nearly 10 minutes as they stood by and watched. No one reported the incident, and no one took the boys to see a nurse. Sugarcane farmers in that part of Florida burn their crops to make them easier to harvest during the summer and fall, sending

past their scheduled release dates in an effort to generate more revenue — a serious violation of the company’s contract and state law. Judges throughout the state began demanding that Pahokee be closed. During a July 1999 hearing, Palm Beach County Juvenile Judge Ron Alvarez warned that keeping the facility open without improvements courted disaster. “Treatment of these children comes dangerously close to being inhumane,” the judge said. “We’re dealing with human beings. We’re


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

not dealing with an automobile that can wait to be repaired.” The state stopped admitting new youth to Pahokee in August 1999, after the facility failed an annual audit. But once again, the state government did not cancel Slattery’s contract. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice instead allowed the company to withdraw from the contract eight months early. In a brief news release at the time, the company said it was closing Pahokee and three other facilities across the country that were “unprofitable” in the most recent quarter. There was no mention of the state’s findings. Slattery said the company would continue to review facilities for profitability to ensure the “highest quality services for our contracting agencies and a fair return for our shareholders.”

NATIONAL TROUBLES In the midst of the abuse allegations at Pahokee, Correctional Services Corp. was enjoying robust earnings. By 1999, annual revenues reached more than $223 million, up from $99 million three years before. That year, the com-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

pany acquired a rival, Marylandbased Youth Services International, started by W. James Hindman, the founder and former chairman of Jiffy Lube International, Inc. In addition to five new facilities in Florida, the deal gave the company access to new markets in the mid-Atlantic and the Midwest. With more facilities to run, the problems only intensified. In June 1999, a 16-year-old inmate sexually assaulted a female staff member who was left alone in an unlocked building at the Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School outside of Baltimore, according to state court documents. Problems at Hickey became so dire that the Justice Department initiated an investigation. Its subsequent report, released in 2004, concluded that Hickey staff repeatedly tried to conceal evidence of physical assaults, disclosing only about two-thirds of all incidents. The facility was so inadequately staffed that boys were entering other boys’ rooms and assaulting them. The Justice Department found that the conditions violated “the constitutional and federal statutory rights of the youth residents.” The report landed less than two weeks after the company’s contract ended and the state took over the facility. The company in-


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

curred no penalties and the state agreed to implement reforms, but ultimately closed the facility the following year. “These kids were just warehoused,” said Stacey Gurian-Sherman, a juvenile justice advocate and former state juvenile justice staffer in Maryland who helped

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

nile inmates rioted and took over the facility. After the disturbance, police in Las Vegas charged two former female guards with having sexual relations with inmates. Both women pleaded guilty. That same year, 18-year-old Bryan Alexander died of pneumonia while confined at a Correctional

“The staff is untrained, and they end up working double and triple eight-hour shifts. So the kids get abused at worst, neglected at least, and they come out with many more problems than when they walked in.” expose some of the problems at Correctional Services Corp. facilities. “The staff is untrained, and they end up working double and triple eight-hour shifts. So the kids get abused at worst, neglected at least, and they come out with many more problems than when they walked in.” At a Florida Correctional Services Corp. facility called Cypress Creek, north of Tampa, six juveniles escaped between 2000 and 2001. In 2001, at a youth prison run by the company in Nevada, juve-

Services Corp. boot camp outside of Fort Worth, Texas. A report from the Texas Rangers, the state’s premier law enforcement unit, laid out a chilling portrait of neglect. Other inmates at the facility had told investigators that they knew something was wrong with Alexander in early January. He had stopped eating, his lips turned purple, and he shivered even while taking hot showers. He begged a nurse and drill instructors to take him to the hospital, but they told him he was faking it, according to the Texas Rangers’ report. As Alexander pleaded for help, one drill instructor told him to


AP PHOTO/ MATT HOUSTON

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

“go ahead and die already,” according to the investigative report. The nurse, Knyvett Reyes, told him to stop lying about his illness. Other inmates at the facility saw Alexander coughing up blood into trash cans and frequently struggling to breathe, according to the report. A week after he began complaining, staff finally took Alexander to the hospital. He died there two days later. A doctor told the Texas Rangers that Alexander

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

could have survived had staff taken him to get a chest X-ray when he first reported feeling sick. In 2002, a judge found Reyes guilty of negligent homicide. Correctional Services Corp. lost a separate wrongful death lawsuit, and had to pay $38 million to Alexander’s family. By that time, the company’s lobbying activities were also coming under scrutiny. In New York, state auditors and prosecutors began probing a Democratic state assemblywoman, Gloria Davis of the Bronx, for allegedly accepting gifts from Correctional Services

Residents of the Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School play basketball as Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich speaks during a press conference in June 2005. The governor announced the closing of the facility in light of an investigation by the DOJ that found civil rights violations during Correctional Services Corp.’s tenure.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

Corp. as an inducement to help the company win contracts. As Davis ultimately pleaded, the company had for four years supplied its vans to transport

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

spread evidence of earlier undisclosed gifts to state lawmakers, including free rides and dinners. Correctional Services Corp. agreed to a settlement in which the com-

“Children are choked and slammed head first into concrete walls, their arms and fingers are bent back and twisted to inflict pain for infractions as minor  as failing to follow an order to stand up.” her to and from the state capitol in Albany free of charge. In exchange, she helped the company secure contracts to operate halfway houses in New York City. Davis pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in connection with Correctional Services Corp. and a scheme involving a separate nonprofit group. She was sentenced to three months in jail and nearly five years’ probation, and agreed to never again seek public office. At the time of her 2003 pleading, Correctional Services Corp. no longer had contracts in New York. But an investigation by New York’s Temporary State Commission on Lobbying found wide-

pany admitted no wrongdoing but paid a $300,000 fine for failing to document the gifts. It was then the highest fine ever assessed by the commission, besting a $250,000 fine doled out to Donald Trump and his business associates for failing to disclose money spent lobbying against new casinos in upstate New York.

A CLEAN RECORD Even as the evidence mounted that Correctional Services Corp. had a tendency to land in trouble, Florida did not hesitate to give the company new contracts. Indeed, as the company pursued a fresh round of contracts in 2003, none of its scrapes with authorities in other states emerged


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

as an issue in Florida’s oversight process, according to a review of hundreds of pages of state contracting documents. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice looks at past performance when choosing contractors, but evaluators rely on companies to self-report their contracting

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

aware of past problems. “This is a close-knit industry with a very high volume of reporting and connectivity,” he said. Over the last decade, Slattery’s company has secured 13 contracts in Florida collectively worth more than $175 million. In 2005, Slattery sold Correc-

“We’re dealing with human beings. We’re not dealing with an automobile that can wait to be repaired.” history. In some of the most egregious instances of negligence and failure to report serious incidents, however, Slattery’s companies pulled out of their contracts early, rather than wait for the government to take action. In other cases, the contract’s end date worked in the company’s favor. Executives could then technically say they had never had a contract canceled. Moreover, state officials don’t examine a potential contractor’s record in other states if the company already has contracts in Florida. Jesse Williams, the spokesman for Slattery’s current company, asserted that the state is well

tional Services Corp. to a rival private prison company, the GEO Group Inc. The deal netted him more than $6.7 million in severance and stock proceeds, according to securities filings. In a complex arrangement, Slattery gave up a portfolio of 14 immigration detention facilities and adult prisons across the country as part of a $62 million sale, while buying back one division for $3.75 million: Youth Services International. As this new Slattery venture continued to grow in Florida, the old problems surfaced again. At one of its largest facilities, a program for boys near Fort Lauderdale called Thompson Academy, staff members were quitting in droves,


CHRIS McGONIGAL

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

or being fired after violent incidents. Three years into the contract, in 2006, a state review found that 96 percent of the staff had left during the previous year. Eight cases of child abuse by staff were ultimately substantiated that year, according to contract documents. According to HuffPost’s review of police reports, internal Department of Juvenile Justice investigations and youth grievance forms obtained through public records requests, Florida facilities run by Youth Ser-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

vices International continue to be plagued by violence, high turnover and unprofessional staff. Youth counselors for YSI — those who work directly with juvenile inmates — earn about $10.50 an hour, or just under $22,000 per year, according to contract proposals from 2010. Because of frequent turnover and absences among staff, double shifts are common, adding additional stress to the job, former employees said. One night in July 2012, a juvenile inmate at Thompson Academy was lining up with other boys

Bowers walks by a playground outside her home on May 29, 2013, in Orlando, Fla.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

after taking a shower when he realized that the boxer shorts he had been issued were too big. According to a police report and an interview with the inmate’s mother, the boy asked a female staff member if he could have another pair. She said no. So he asked another male counselor. According to the police report, the second counselor turned to the boy, grabbed his shirt and started to choke him. Another male staff-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

eral other youth had to hold the counselor back. “Why did he still have access to my son 15 minutes later?” asked the boy’s mother, who requested that her name not be used in order to protect her son’s identity. “Why wasn’t he removed immediately?” Her son was unavailable for an interview because he has since been arrested and incarcerated at another YSI facility. During a similar incident in

“As Alexander pleaded for help, one drill instructor  told him to ‘go ahead and die already,’ according to  the investigative report.” er pulled the counselor off, but he continued to go after the boy. Staff removed the boy and took him to his room while leading the staffer who choked him to another part of the hallway. But after a few minutes, the same counselor charged into the boy’s room and tried to choke him again, said the mother, who spoke with staff and her son after the incident. Sev-

February 2012, a Thompson Academy staff member got into an argument with a 13-year-old boy who wanted to get a folder with schoolwork from another room. The staffer told him no, but the boy disobeyed. According to a therapist and other witnesses mentioned in a police report of the incident, the staff member started choking the boy and picked him up. The therapist said the staff member’s actions “were preventing


CHRIS McGONIGAL

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

[the boy] from breathing and she feared from [sic] his life.” After she screamed at the staff member to let the boy go, he dropped him to the floor, leaving the boy with a bloody nose. When the Pembroke Pines Police Department called the staffer to follow up, he replied: “This ain’t no big deal,” while refusing to answer questions, according to the report. At YSI’s Broward Girls Academy, a 30-bed program less than a mile away from Thompson,

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

18-year-old Destinee Bowers didn’t want to go to an evening church service last year. Normally she was permitted to stay in a dayroom, she said, but staff members declined to watch her, instead ordering her to go to church. According to Bowers, when she refused, a staff member tried to pull her out of her bed. She resisted, she said, prompting the staffer to choke her. “I was trying to tell her, ‘I can’t resist, you’ve got my arms, you’ve got my throat,’” Bowers recalled. She said once the staff member released her, she started throwing up. She asked to call the 24-

Bowers with her mother, Jeanna, at their Orlando, Fla., home.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

hour abuse hotline that is supposed to be available to youth at all times, according to state law. The staffer told her she had to wait until the facility administrator showed up in the morning. The next day, the administrator told Bowers she was not allowed to call because she had resisted.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

shift supervisor at Broward Girls. One weekend in the summer of 2012, at a time when staffing was particularly lean, a riot broke out, Phillips said. Girls began yelling and hitting one another. The three staff members on duty intervened, but the violence escalated until staff from another facility arrived.

“We were kept like rats in a trap, in a maze. There was no outlet and no stimulation, so they would just turn on each other, and turn on staff.” “We simply don’t believe this is true,” said Williams, the YSI spokesman. “There are multiple ways for detainees to report abuse.” Former staff and youth at the facility recalled fights erupting almost every day. “They’d never try to do anything, they’d never try to help us, to keep our minds occupied,” said Bowers, who was in the program from December 2011 to August 2012. “We were always bored, which caused a lot of drama.” The weekends were a “free-forall,” said Angela Phillips, a former

The morning after, there was blood on the floors and ceilings, said one youth who witnessed the fight. Another large fight broke out in the showers last fall, said another former Broward Girls inmate who asked that her name not be used because she is under 18. A lone staff member tried to break up a fight involving nine girls, she said, while another staff member walked away. Williams said there have been incidents between inmates that required staff intervention, but he denied that anything termed a “riot” ever occurred at Broward Girls Academy. In another example of negligence at the facility, staff mistak-


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

enly barred the same girl from visiting her mother because administrators confused her with another inmate whose mother had brought cash into the facility during visiting hours — a major violation of contraband policy. Starting last December, a new group of girls was transferred into

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

who witnessed the summer 2012 riot in the facility, there are no police reports or Florida Department of Juvenile Justice incident reports describing these events. Bowers and Chelsea Fernandez, 19, who was also at Broward Girls last year, said they remembered YSI staff from nearby Thompson

As a juvenile judge, he thought he was sending boys to a moderate-risk program with outdoor wilderness activities. What he found was a hardcore prison. the facility, after a program in the northern part of the state shut down. Violent fights erupted over turf, the former inmate said. “They were just psychotic,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’ve had enough of this, I’ve been here for 10 months.’” Earlier this year, the juvenile public defender in Palm Beach County, Barbara White, managed to get the inmate transferred out of Broward Girls, citing the chronic violence there, she said in an interview. Yet despite the girl’s account, and those of four staff and youth

Academy coming over to quell the riot. But they didn’t recall any police or state investigation. Phillips, the former shift supervisor, said it was rare for YSI to call in outside authorities lest it trigger greater scrutiny from the state. “They don’t want the attention,” Phillips said. “In order to keep your contract, you have to make it seem like you were under control.” She said the Broward Girls facility was so frequently short of basic items like toilet paper, laundry detergent, tampons and deodorant that management instructed staff to ration: on some days, fewer than five squares of toilet paper per girl.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

“We didn’t uplift them in any way,” Phillips said of the inmates. “They never felt good about themselves. It just added to the stress level that was in there.” Thompson Academy, the facility for boys, was one of YSI’s most troubled institutions until it closed last year as part of what the state called its “Long Range Program Plan” to phase out larger juvenile facilities. It was also one of the most profitable. With 154 beds, the contract was worth $13 million. From the beginning, escapes, fights and abuse by staff were frequent. In its first two years, Thompson failed numerous state reviews. Yet it remained open for nine years. A 2010 lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center referred to youth who described Thompson Academy as a “frightening and violent place” where juveniles were denied medical care when abused. “Children are choked and slammed head first into concrete walls, their arms and fingers are bent back and twisted to inflict pain for infractions as minor as failing to follow an order to stand up,” the lawsuit said. The compa-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

ny settled the lawsuit in 2011; the terms remain confidential. Under the state’s contract guidelines, allegations of sexual abuse require immediate reporting to the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Central Communications Center. But local police and state authorities did not learn of alleged sexual abuse at the same facility until a boy made his third complaint, according to an internal state investigation and local police reports. A boy who said he was forced to give oral sex to a male guard on three different occasions first reported the abuse in March 2010. In a police report from October of that year, a Pembroke Pines officer noted: “This is the third time this victim has alleged sexual abuse.” “Absolutely no paperwork exists with the Thompson Academy as to internal investigations on this incident or on allegations that occurred there,” the report said. A former employee at Thompson Academy, who asked not to be identified because he still works in the field, said staff were often told not to report physical incidents that were considered minor. “They said we’ve got to get our contracts,” the employee said. “We don’t want these points against us.”

TAP ARROW TO READ PART 2


P

R

I

S

O

P

N

E

R O

P A

R S

F

O

F

I

T

R T

2

LAX OVERSIGHT FUELS A CYCLE OF MISTREATMENT B Y

C

H

R

I

S

K

I

R

K

H

A

M


YOUTH SERVICES INTERNATIONAL confronted a potentially expensive situation. It was early 2004, only three months into the private prison company’s $9.5 million contract to run Thompson Academy, a juvenile prison in Florida, and already the facility had become a scene of documented violence and neglect. ¶ One guard had fractured an inmate’s elbow after the boy refused instructions to throw away a cup, according to incident reports. Another guard had slammed a boy’s head into the floor after an argument. The prison was infested with ants and cockroaches, toilets were frequently clogged and children reported finding bugs in their meager portions of food. “From day one, it was hell,” said Jerry Blanton, a former monitor with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, who was then tasked with inspecting Thompson Academy. Conditions appeared so foul and perilous that he told his supervisors that he “emphatically recommended that the facility be closed,”according to a memo about the discussions. What happened next speaks to how Youth Services International has managed to forge a lu-

crative business running private juvenile prisons in Florida and 15 other states even amid mounting evidence of abuse. The company used connections with state officials to complain that Blanton was intimidating staff. Less than a week later, the state removed him as monitor of the facility. Two months after that, he was fired. Thompson remained open, and Youth Services International retained its contract to operate it. In the nine years since, the company has won an additional eight contracts in Florida, bringing 4,100 more youths through its facilities, according to state records. All the


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

while, complaints of abuse and neglect have remained constant. Florida leads the nation in placing state prisons in the hands of private, profit-making companies. In recent years, the state has privatized the entirety of its $183 million juvenile commitment system — the nation’s third-largest,

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

YSI prisons there. “They turned out to be the ally of the corporations, and the ally of the system.” Florida’s permissive oversight has allowed Youth Services International to essentially game the system since entering the state more than a decade ago. Despite contractual requirements that the

[Florida’s] Department of Juvenile Justice routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records, a Huffington Post investigation has found. trailing only California and Texas. Florida not only relies on private contractors to self-report escapes and incidents of violence and abuse, but the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice routinely awards contracts to private prison operators without scrutinizing their records, a Huffington Post investigation has found. “We thought DJJ was going to be our biggest ally,” said Gordon Weekes, the chief juvenile public defender in Broward County, who has for years complained to the state about conditions inside two

company report serious incidents at its facilities, YSI routinely fails to document problems, sanitizes those reports it does submit and pressures inmates to withhold evidence of mistreatment, according to interviews with 14 former YSI employees. “The state is not doing enough,” said Wanda Williams, a former staffer at YSI’s Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility, who quit in 2010 after growing disgusted with the violence and squalid conditions she saw inside the prison. “Because if they were, that place should have been shut down by now.” Executives at YSI declined


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

requests for interviews made over the last four months. In an emailed response to questions, Senior Vice President Jesse Williams said the company’s juvenile prisons are some of the best in Florida. He added that the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice rigorously inspects the facilities. “The DJJ has a very meticulous monitoring system,” he said. “There are numerous announced and unannounced visits to each facility to check for quality assurance and contract compliance, and we do very well in our reviews.” Williams denied that the company fails to report serious incidents to the state. “Our policy is to report everything,” he said. “In fact, we communicate to our employees that if there are any doubts about whether it is a reportable incident to go ahead and notify DJJ.” Senior officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice declined interview requests. The agency refused to discuss specific details of HuffPost’s findings, though a spokeswoman issued a statement asserting the department is committed to ensuring that youth in its system “remain safe and are given every opportunity to thrive.”

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

She said contract oversight is one of the agency’s top priorities. “With 100 percent of the agency’s residential services provided through contractors, the contract selection and renewal process is paramount to our success,” said the spokeswoman, Meghan Speakes Collins, in an email. Since 2011, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott took office in Florida, the department has “revamped” its review of contractors, she added, by engaging in deeper statistical analysis of trends such as high staff turnover and the number of altercations between staff and youth. Former employees say Youth Services International has maintained a pristine image in the state’s official accounts in part by massaging the paperwork. Riots often go unreported, meaning law enforcement officers never arrive to investigate or document evidence of problems, these sources say. Staff training sessions tend to be conducted in a perfunctory fashion, with little effect — but they are nearly always well-documented and up to date. “The paperwork was spotless,” said Angela Phillips, a former shift supervisor at Broward Girls Academy in Pembroke Pines, northwest of Miami. “But if you go to a facility that has no toilet paper, no


STATE ARCHIVES OF FLORIDA/FLORIDA MEMORY

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

laundry detergent, no underwear or bras, it seems like somebody would have raised a red flag.” Annual quality assurance reviews play a major role in determining whether the state renews a juvenile prison contract. Under Florida guidelines, a private juvenile prison that fails this test comes up for review again within six months. A subsequent failure can result in contract termination. Yet these reviews often fail to probe conditions inside facilities, merely assessing whether required

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

policies are in place, not necessarily whether they are followed. When the Department of Juvenile Justice does examine actual conditions, its reviews often rely on surveys of staff and inmates, as opposed to interviews and written testimony. “They rely too much on what the providers tell them, and not enough on what the children tell them,” said David Utter, the director of Florida policy at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has followed the rise of YSI and was involved in a lawsuit alleging abuse at Thompson Academy. “Quality assurance is looking at contract adherence, whether

Playground and buildings at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla., in 1968.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

they’re meeting the general terms of the contract, not the goals of the rehabilitation of the youth,” explained Weekes, the Broward County public defender. “They do a cursory review of the youth. They look more at whether [the contractors] are record-keeping properly.” HuffPost reviewed logs documenting complaints inside state youth prisons recorded between

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Are kids learning anything? Any of the things that a parent would care about, or that a taxpayer ought to care about, are not at the heart of this stuff,” he said. According to Speakes Collins, the department spokeswoman, earlier this year the agency began conducting more inspections and more frequent interviews with youth across the system in

“We thought DJJ was going to be our biggest ally. They turned out to be the ally of the corporations, and the ally of the system.” 2008 and 2012. Those logs show that several of the YSI facilities that received positive “quality assurance” reviews also generated an outsize share of staff arrests, youth injuries and allegations of excessive force. Bart Lubow, a juvenile justice expert with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says such reviews tend to measure contractual compliance rather than what actually happens to youth inside the facilities. “How many people got hurt?

an effort to pinpoint programs with a high incidence of violence and to discover whether problems are being covered up. Youth Services International became skilled at navigating the state’s contracting system in part by hiring the very people who developed it. Woodrow Harper, the company’s executive vice president, was a deputy secretary at the Department of Juvenile Justice when the agency was first formed in 1994. The company’s vice president of contract compliance, Dorothy Xanos, also previously worked for the depart-


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

ment, helping to develop some of the state’s first quality assurance standards. Damon Nunn, who runs YSI’s Palm Beach juvenile facility, used to be the state monitor at one of the company’s programs in South Florida. State probes of mistreatment claims typically end with inconclusive evidence. Only about a quarter of cases across the state

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

system involving allegations of abuse by staff are ever substantiated, according to a HuffPost tabulation of investigations logged by the inspector general’s office at the Department of Juvenile Justice. Many are simply ruled “inconclusive” when staff say one thing and youth say another, despite trends indicating that problems are systemic.

THE RISE OF JAMES SLATTERY’S PRIVATE PRISON EMPIRE

SWIPE TO SCROLL TIMELINE


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

At a YSI facility in St. Augustine in 2009, more than 25 separate children accused staff and management at the facility of preventing them from calling the state’s abuse hotline, according to an internal investigation by the DJJ. All the cases were found to be inconclusive. Even in state-run facilities, outside authorities found that cases of abuse went undocumented. The U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division noted many concerns about state oversight in an investigation of a violenceridden state juvenile prison in north Florida two years ago. Federal investigators concluded that problems inside the institution indicated a “failed system of oversight and accountability” across Florida’s youth prisons. The state closed the facility before the Justice Department finished its report, citing a lack of funds. In a follow-up letter to the DOJ in January 2012, Gov. Rick Scott challenged the “unsupported suggestion” that problems in Florida’s juvenile justice programs were systemic. “Nonetheless, my administration remains committed to review and reform,” he wrote. Former Department of Juvenile

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Justice officials say that because Florida has turned over its youth prison system to contractors like YSI, the state is effectively complicit in allowing problems to fester at private facilities. With a fully outsourced system, there is little incentive to crack down on contractors, former staffers say. “They don’t want the providers to look bad, because they don’t have anyone else to provide this service,” said a former Department of Juvenile Justice executive staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing a continued career in the field. “Bottom line, the state of Florida doesn’t want responsibility for these kids.”

TROUBLED PAST Such pronouncements have dogged authorities in Florida for decades. In the early 1980s, lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union began investigating reports of horrendous conditions and mistreatment inside Florida’s three “training schools” for juvenile delinquents. One institution on the Florida panhandle, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys — then among the largest youth jails in the country — had gained a reputation for extraordinary brutality and neglect. In 1983, the


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

ACLU joined with another juvenile rights group to sue the state for its treatment of inmates at Dozier and two other facilities. According to the lawsuit, guards hog-tied children, forcing them to lay on their stomachs on concrete slabs for hours at a time

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

pologists from the University of South Florida have identified an estimated 50 unmarked graves on the school’s site. Under a consent decree in 1987, the state agreed to reforms, including a promise to transition toward smaller facilities

“How many people got hurt? Are kids learning anything? Any of the things that a parent  would care about, or that a taxpayer ought to  care about, are not at the heart of this stuff.” while their hands and feet were bound behind them in shackles and handcuffs. The state rarely screened youth for psychological problems when they arrived, effectively abandoning those who were developmentally disabled or suffering from mental illness. To this day, former Dozier inmates continue to push state law enforcement to investigate the deaths of dozens of inmates that occurred there from the turn of the 20th century through the early 1970s. Forensic anthro-

with more dedicated treatment plans for the mentally ill and sexually abused. As part of the agreement, the state gave a federal judge and a court-appointed monitor oversight of Florida’s entire juvenile justice system. The federal monitor, a nationally recognized juvenile incarceration expert named Paul DeMuro, felt the state wasn’t moving quickly enough to adopt reforms. Six years into the agreement he resigned in frustration, concluding in a series of reports that the quality and monitoring of the state’s new programs were “sorely suspect.” A few months after DeMuro


EMILY MICHOT/MIAMI HERALD/MCT

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

resigned, in early 1994, state juvenile justice officials convinced U.S. District Judge Maurice Paul to release Florida from federal monitoring, arguing that the state had the proper controls in place to effectively treat and rehabilitate the youth under its care. The decision coincided with a rush to construct new youth prisons across the state. Several headline-grabbing murders by Florida teenagers in the early 1990s had sparked fears in the tourism industry, and state politi-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

cians began toughening penalties for young offenders. “Some of the top criminologists were basically scaring the hell out of people, saying, ‘We’ve got this wave of new barbarians at the door,’” said Barry Krisberg, a criminal justice expert who is director of research and policy at the University of California, Berkeley’s Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy. “It’s true that youth crime rates were rising. But they were projecting that this was going to double, triple. It was outrageous.” Amid the prison-building boom, James F. Slattery and his com-

Crosses made of metal pipes mark the graves of 32 unidentified bodies in a small, hidden graveyard near the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

pany — then named Correctional Services Corp. — embarked on what would eventually grow into a rewarding business relationship with the state of Florida. Slattery’s company had previously been confined largely to Texas, New York and New Jersey. In 1995, it won three contracts in Florida, and then moved its headquarters to Sarasota, on the Gulf Coast. Problems emerged almost immediately. Juvenile court judges from Miami to West Palm Beach began fielding complaints about fetid conditions, violence and staff abuse at one Correctional Services Corp. facility, the 350-bed Pahokee Youth Development Center. DeMuro, the former federal monitor, was brought in by public defenders in Miami to inspect Pahokee in 1997. He described a “negative sub-culture” where “larger and stronger kids can take advantage of weaker kids.” Staff only contributed to the vile atmosphere, he found. “Staff often curse at youngsters, talk about their family situations,” DeMuro testified in a court hearing about conditions at Pahokee that year. “There is an inappropriate use of force by banging kids against the wall and

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

taking them down.” Jesse Williams, the current company spokesman, acknowledged that Correctional Services Corp. had “some issues that we dealt with effectively 15 years ago.” By 1999, problems at Pahokee had become so dire that Correctional Services Corp. risked losing its contract. Under state law, that termination would have prevented the company from securing a new contract in Florida for at least a year. So the company employed the tactic that has kept its record clean in the eyes of the state: It voluntarily withdrew from the contract several months early, closing the books before damaging reports might be set down for future consideration.

FIRING THE MONITOR That clean record would become a valuable asset four years later, as the Department of Juvenile Justice sought a private contractor to run Thompson Academy, the 112bed facility for “moderate-risk” boys northwest of Miami. Slattery submitted a proposal, touting his company’s “history of successfully operating juvenile facilities for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.” The 60-page proposal noted that the


“There is nothing in training files for staff — no training plans, no documentation of any training regarding [restraints], CPR and first aid, fire, riot and other emergency situations.”

CHRIS MCGONIGAL

Former employees and inmates have alleged poor staffing and supervision at the Broward Girls Academy (pictured) in Pembroke Pines, Fla., operated by YSI since 2010.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

company’s programs were “nationally recognized” for “consistent, high-quality services.” The proposal described other moderate-risk facilities the company had “successfully operated” in other parts of the country, including the 355-bed Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School outside of Baltimore. The proposal neglected

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

not required to disclose any of this history in bidding for business with the state of Florida. According to the Department of Juvenile Justice’s contract scoring process, state officials examine records in other states only when the private operator has no previous contracts in Florida. When the state evaluates cur-

... more than 25 separate children accused staff and management at the facility of preventing them from calling the state’s abuse hotline, according to an internal investigation by the DJJ. All the cases were found to be inconclusive. to mention that the U.S. Justice Department was in the midst of investigating widespread violence and rampant staff abuse at Hickey that same year. The proposal also avoided mentioning that the company was in the midst of a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas, after an 18-year-old inmate died of pneumonia despite begging to be taken to the hospital. Correctional Services Corp. was

rent contractors, past performance counts for less than onefourth of the total score. The bulk of the rating stems from the quality of the contractor’s technical proposal — its plans to staff the facility, for example, and its policies on security, escapes and training. Outside evaluators are instructed not to consider “any other information, other than the information contained in the proposal, including personal experience with provider or staff, news articles, anything heard or


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

said about provider.” “They’re not getting rated on the things that are most important,” said Vanessa Patino Lydia, who has followed Florida’s juvenile justice system as a research director at the National Council on Crime and Delinquency and the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, a nonprofit focused on girls in the juvenile justice system. “The points are about: ‘Did you respond to the questions on what you’re going to do?’” The Department of Juvenile Justice asserts that problems with a company’s program in one state do not necessarily raise concerns about its activities in another. “Comparisons between states can be difficult since juvenile justice is administered differently around the country,” said Meghan Speakes Collins, the DJJ spokeswoman. “Additionally, companies often have different management oversight and personnel operating programs in individual states.” The proposal Slattery put forward for Thompson Academy included descriptions of his company’s “expert managers and well-trained staff that are setting the highest standards in our industry.” He won the contract.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Soon, the same problems that had emerged at many of his institutions cropped up again, according to HuffPost’s review of state facility reports. In December 2003, a month before Slattery’s firm formally took over Thompson, state monitors noted that the company had yet to fill any of the direct-care staff positions, the guards who work most closely with children. A state review found that the company also had yet to detail its plans for recreation and physical fitness, or arrangements for food services. In February 2004, less than two months into the contract, a boy escaped Thompson with the help of another youth. An investigation by the Department of Juvenile Justice found that “facility policies did not address escape prevention” and staff had not been properly trained. Furthermore, the company had not notified the state of the escape within 24 hours, as required. Less than 10 days later, a staff member attacked a 15-year-old boy, slamming his head to the floor and punching him, according to incident reports. When the boy complained that he couldn’t breathe, the guard put his hand over the boy’s mouth. The guard was later fired.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

The following month, a youth counselor slapped an inmate in the face and then head-butted another while saying, “Suck my dick,” according to an incident report filed by the state. The state only learned of the latter incident when a therapist called the abuse hotline. The guard and his supervisor failed

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

resulting report found the facility to be seriously understaffed and unsanitary, and that staff were dismissive of grievances filed by youths housed there. The average starting salary for youth care workers was $17,680 and staff turnover was high, according to documents filed with the state. An emergency state review in

“Staff often curse at youngsters, talk about their family situations. There is an inappropriate use of force by banging kids against the wall and taking them down.” to notify state authorities, as required in the company’s contract. The same month, a group of boys handed a letter to one of the state monitors noting “a bad bug problem in our cafeteria,” including in the food. “Staff interviewed stated youth had too small portions of food, the last group fed got less,” read an email from a different monitor, Pamela Stillwell. Jerry Blanton, then the state’s top monitor at Thompson Academy, asked for a special audit team to review the program. The

March found no evidence that staff had been trained in the proper ways to restrain youth. According to an email from a department monitor regarding the March evaluation: “There is nothing in training files for staff — no training plans, no documentation of any training regarding [restraints], CPR and first aid, fire, riot and other emergency situations.” Just as Blanton and others from the state began documenting problems, the facility administrator at Thompson Academy, Jasir Diab, was requesting meetings with Blanton’s superiors at the state Department of Juvenile Jus-


“She kicked me like a dog,” Fernandez recalled. She said the next day, during a group therapy session, staff told the girls present not to mention the fight  to anyone. Chelsea Fernandez outside her home in Miami, Fla., on May 31, 2013.

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRIS McGONIGAL


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

tice, according to internal department memos and company correspondence obtained by HuffPost. Diab had previously worked at the company’s troubled Pahokee facility and today serves as corporate regional vice president. A few weeks after the state’s special review of Thompson in 2004, Diab met with DJJ regional director Darryl Olson to discuss concerns he had about Blanton’s behavior, according to department correspondence. In an April 2004 letter to department officials and corporate higher-ups at the company, Diab complained that Blanton had been conducting unannounced visits — allowed under the contract terms – and intimidating staff and demanding documentation from employees who lacked the requisite information. Diab also complained that Blanton encouraged employees to call him with concerns about the program, “thus undermining the management of the facility,” according to a letter the administrator sent to the state. In an interview, Blanton acknowledged that he stuck out within the culture of the Department of Juvenile Justice, some-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

times coming off as confrontational where colleagues generally projected an air of collaboration with the private contractors whose programs they inspected. “I dance to my own music,” he said. The usual spirit of cooperation flowed from a basic understanding about the nature of the employment cycle, according to the former department executive staffer who requested anonymity: Many state employees wound up going to work for the same private contractors they regulated. “It was widely known in the department that the relationships you are able to build on the outside are where your next paycheck is coming from,” the former employee said. “It’s your way of guaranteeing yourself work when the next administration comes in.” Blanton did not live by that code. A 66-year-old AfricanAmerican man from upstate New York in a department dominated by whites, he says he took particular interest in the welfare of the youths housed in Florida’s juvenile prisons, who were overwhelmingly black and Latino. He makes no apologies for confronting his bosses and the private prison companies alike when he found evidence that young people incarcerated under the state’s authority were being neglected or abused.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

“The purpose of a monitor is to ensure that the mandates set down by the state and the rules in the contract were followed,” he said. “Two things really stood out: Staffing was not adequate, and the kids weren’t eating. Therefore they were not safe.” A week after Diab met with

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

manage/supervise people in such a manner?” In the letter calling for Blanton’s termination, his superiors cited the complaints from Diab and a complaint from a different contractor that described Blanton as “confrontational” and “intimidating.” His bosses also cited

“Bottom line, the state of Florida doesn’t  want responsibility for these kids.” state officials, Blanton’s bosses removed him as the monitor at Thompson Academy. He was fired two months later. In a series of memos before he was fired, Blanton asked his superiors why they took the complaints from the company as fact without also consulting him. “I have some problems with your process,” Blanton wrote. “They are as follows: 1) allegations are made and taken as truth; 2) as a DJJ employee, I was never given the opportunity to meet with my accuser; 3) you did no investigation or verification of the validity of the complaint. How does one

“apparent attempts at retaliation” after Blanton told them he “should not be underestimated” following his removal from monitoring duties at Thompson. Blanton was also cited for turning in four facility reports late, and for leaving the office without signing out, according to the termination documents, which Blanton shared with The Huffington Post. Back in the 1990s, Blanton had run a state facility in Palm Beach County, where youth had accused counselors of mistreating them. He was temporarily reassigned as local prosecutors investigated, but the state never brought charges and he was never found to have violated procedures. This history was not mentioned as a


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

reason for his termination, according to state documents. Williams, the current spokesman, confirmed that the company had lodged a formal complaint against Blanton, but added: “It was not the reason he was terminated.” He referred other questions to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Speakes Collins, the agency spokeswoman, declined to com-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

background checks required by state law. A review of incidents involving staff and youth revealed that many had not been reported to the state within the required timeframe. Only two out of 20 reviewed employees had completed required training on child abuse and incident reporting during their first two weeks on the job, as required by the state.

“The paperwork looked great, because someone was going around and spending overtime just to make sure that paperwork was correct. If there was something missing, they would just forge it.” ment on the issue, asserting that it would be “inappropriate” to discuss matters that happened during a past administration. Less than four months after Blanton was fired, another state review of Thompson confirmed and amplified many of the problems he had documented. Among the “critical” concerns listed in the annual audit: employees had been hired absent the criminal

The review also found that staff at Thompson badly neglected preparing juveniles for release, in one case failing to notify the state social services agency about the departure of a boy who had previously been in foster care. Over the next two years, the facility continued to receive low marks on annual reviews, including a finding in 2006 that youth who had been placed on suicide watch received minimal counseling. But when the Thompson contract came up for renewal after three


CHRIS KIRKHAM

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

years, the state again selected Slattery’s company — by then known as Youth Services International — to continue running the facility. Under Florida guidelines, the question of whether to renew a private juvenile prison contract “is at the Department’s sole discretion” and “shall be contingent, at a minimum, upon satisfactory performance.” In the case of Thompson Academy, the state renewed YSI’s deal even though documents showed that 96 percent of staff had left the facility and eight confirmed cases of child abuse had emerged there over the previous year. The company has continued

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

to win other contracts while using its successful proposal for Thompson as a template. The Department of Juvenile Justice maintains that it has improved its contract oversight process by granting fewer renewals. The new system allows more companies to submit proposals once a contract is nearing completion, increasing competition. Speakes Collins declined to say whether YSI would have seen its Thompson contract renewed under the new guidelines. Former YSI employees dismissed the review process as a mere formality. The Department of Juvenile Justice “doesn’t care about these kids,” said a former manager at two YSI facilities, who asked not be identified because the person

The Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility is YSI’s largest youth prison in Florida, with 118 beds.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

still works in the field. “They have cut so many costs and taken away so many tools to help these kids, that it’s just a revolving door.”

DOCTORING DOCUMENTS In recent years, some of YSI’s facilities have shown improved scores on annual reviews from the state, in some cases scoring so highly that they won exemption from required reviews the

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

such visits, these sources said, staff work feverishly to prepare documents showing that medical exams, therapy sessions and staff trainings are conducted as required — supplementing and back-dating the files as needed. The quality evaluation process “was a joke,” said Angela Phillips, the former Broward Girls Academy shift supervisor. “The paperwork looked great, because someone was going around and

“They just worry about the audits.  They’re not worried about these kids’ lives.” following year. But interviews with former YSI staff members reveal that this numeric progress may have little to do with improved conditions. Rather, they said, it likely reflects the company’s sophistication in fabricating the necessary paperwork for its annual quality assurance evaluations. Each facility knows when state auditors are scheduled to visit, according to former YSI employees. In the weeks prior to

spending overtime just to make sure that paperwork was correct. If there was something missing, they would just forge it.” Several former employees recalled marathon work sessions in which they sometimes fabricated entire log books to paper over discrepancies in records, or to fill in the gaps when the files lacked required reports. “Just about every area you could look into, they were deficient,” said a former medical employee at YSI’s Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility. “So they made up documents to make it


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

seem like they weren’t.” Genesia Williams-Wilkerson, a former case manager at the same prison who left the institution in 2011, said the accuracy of paperwork documenting staff training sessions was particularly questionable. Even if employees missed or showed up late for classes on CPR or proper restraint techniques, managers told them to sign in as if they

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

ployees, when state officials visited to review facilities, managers would handpick trusted employees and youth to be interviewed. “We would be coached,” said Wanda Williams (no relation), a former youth care worker at the Palm Beach prison. “They’d say, ‘You better not put anything on this paper that you shouldn’t put there.’ The state didn’t do enough, and they never wanted to

To discourage inmates from reporting abuse, staff provided youth with snacks or special privileges, such as being allowed to stay up late, former inmates said. had attended, she said. “They’d just bring around the paper, and you’d sign it. That way they’d have the papers saying we’ve done the training,” she said. “They just worry about the audits. They’re not worried about these kids’ lives.” Jesse Williams, the YSI spokesman, denied claims that paperwork was backdated and fabricated, calling the inspection process “stringent and thorough.” But according to former em-

talk to us one-on-one.” Because the state relies almost entirely on its juvenile jail contractors to self-report major incidents, staffers said the company consistently tried to conceal fights and riots from the state Department of Juvenile Justice as well as state and local authorities. “They don’t want any outside company, because they want the program to look like it’s running smoothly,” said Williams-Wilkerson. “Outside support should be called for a lot of what goes on, but they don’t do that.” The state maintains a spe-


CHRIS McGONIGAL

PRISONERS OF PROFIT

cial hotline for juvenile inmates seeking to report mistreatment. But youth who have been inside YSI facilities told HuffPost that those wanting access to the hotline must seek permission from staff — often the same staff they say abused them. Williams, the YSI spokesman, denied that inmates were pressured not to report abuse. “There are multiple ways for de-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

tainees to report abuse, such as hotlines directly to the state, reporting to other administrators (anonymously) or simply telling their family members during visitation,” he said. Chelsea Fernandez, an inmate at Broward Girls Academy who left the program last year, said she was denied hotline calls despite suffering bruises after being thrown up against a wall and onto the floor by a female staff member. “She kicked me like a dog,” Fernandez recalled. She said the next

Chelsea Fernandez, a former inmate at Broward Girls Academy, poses for a photo outside her home in Miami on May 31, 2013.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

day, during a group therapy session, staff told the girls present not to mention the fight to anyone. To discourage inmates from reporting abuse, staff provided youth with snacks or special privileges, such as being allowed to stay up late, former inmates said. Fernandez recalled that before an inspection by state officials last year, staff promised to throw a party for the girls if they behaved and answered questions as instructed. After state officials left, the whole unit was treated to KFC, she said. Phillips, the former shift supervisor at Broward Girls Academy, said the point of such rewards was clear to all: It was about burying evidence of abundant troubles. “The girls would get pizza or ice cream after there was a riot, or some girls would have a fight and then they would get candy,” she said. “Why would you reward them and disregard the fact that they just had a fight? It was so you don’t cause a problem, so you can forget about what happened.”

ENCOURAGING PARTICIPATION While Florida looked the other way, the abuse and neglect inside its juvenile prison system drew

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

the attention of federal officials. A U.S. Justice Department report two years ago found horrific conditions at two state-run programs in north Florida. At the Dozier School for Boys — the same jail that landed the state in federal court in the 1980s — investigators found that the Department of Juvenile Justice hired staff members who were abusive and often failed to document fights. Guards choked and slammed boys into the ground without provocation, according to the Justice Department’s report. Staff often failed to document these assaults, and made a point of engaging in violent behavior away from the view of security cameras. The central takeaway: problems had been allowed to fester because of “the state’s failed system of oversight and accountability.” “These problems may well persist without detection or correction in other juvenile facilities operating under the same policies and procedures,” the report concluded, urging the state to take “immediate measures” to improve its policies and hire consultants to rework the system. By the time the report came out in December 2011, the state had already closed Dozier, citing budget cuts.


PRISONERS OF PROFIT

Florida Gov. Rick Scott sent a frosty response to Washington, arguing that the issues were “confined to the closed facility” and “do not constitute a sufficient, sound or fair basis for concluding that an entire state agency and its employees are failing to properly administer the juvenile justice system in Florida.” In response to questions about whether the state has hired out-

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Thompson Academy, the facility where Jerry Blanton had blown the whistle and lost his job eight years earlier. In a letter to YSI sent in summer 2012, the state told the company that the contract would end because the DJJ was “moving away from large institutional models” and toward smaller, community-based programs. Still, the letter added, “We strongly encourage your

“They don’t want any outside company, because they want the program to look like it’s running smoothly. Outside support should be called for a lot of what goes on, but they don’t do that.” side consultants to review its juvenile commitment system, as recommended by the Justice Department, a spokeswoman pointed only to Scott’s letter. In the push to fully privatize the system and phase out state-run facilities, Florida has continued both to renew YSI’s contracts and to award the company new ones. Last year, Florida opted not to extend YSI’s contract to oversee

participation” in an upcoming bid for new contracts. In January, the state gave YSI a $7.3 million, five-year contract to run the new Broward Youth Treatment Center, a 28-bed program less than a mile away from Thompson. And this summer, YSI won contracts to take over two more state facilities, one in the Tampa area and another in Jacksonville. Chris Kirkham is a business reporter at The Huffington Post.


Exit

STRESS-FREE

Holiday Gift Guide

TRAVEL

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

WENDY GEORGE (TUMI CASES, TAGS); STOOSTOCK.DEVIANTART.COM (BACKGROUND)

For the Globetrotter in Your Life

This year, instead of the usual non-necessities, why don’t you give the traveler in your life something they might actually need on the road? Who hasn’t gotten soaked in a rain spell and needed to air out their clothes? Why wouldn’t you want an on-the-go charger for your phone just in case? Who else wants to treasure their vacation photos using Instagram-like filters in actual print form? These tried-and-true gifts will come in handy for all versions of travels, whether it’s a backpacking excursion, a road trip, or a luxury city outing. — HuffPost Travel Editors

TRAVEL CASE, $125 When a legendary luggage company and a legendary New York apothecary team up, you know things will be good. For their second collaboration, Tumi and malin + goetz are producing his and hers toiletry kits, each with the usual: shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser & moisturizer and body wash (the men’s has shaving cream, the women’s has body lotion). TUMI.COM


HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

Exit

TAP IMAGE FOR DESCRIPTION, TAP NAME TO BUY

IWALK IWALKUSA.COM

RACE CYCLING DUFFEL BAG

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF IWALK; COURTESY OF TIMBUK2;COURTESY OF REI; COURTESY OF PRINTSTAGRAM; COURTESY OF FLIGHT 001

TIMBUK2.COM

MINI JAMBOX JAWBONE.COM

4-IN-1 ADAPTER FLIGHT001.COM

PRINTSTAGRAM PRINTSTAGR.AM

REI CLOTHESLINE REI.COM


ABEL MITJA VARELA/GETTY IMAGES

Exit

THE THIRD METRIC

Dining in Silence With a Roomful of Strangers BY CAREY POLIS

ESPITE READING and writing about food for a living, I often forget to taste my food. I eat dinner leftovers for breakfast without even heating them up. I eat lunch quickly because I have things to do. I graze on snacks we have in the newsroom. I’d like to consider myself a mindful eater,

D

but in reality, I probably err more on the side of a mindless eater. So one night last month, I ate dinner in total silence with a roomful of strangers. The venue was Eat Restaurant in the hipster locus of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where for the past couple of months, New Yorkers have been going to try Nicholas Nauman’s experiment in silent dining.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Exit Mindful eating, the notion of being more “present” during mealtime, is one strategy to reconnect with the food we put in our bodies. It sounds like my kind of diet — one in which you can concentrate on taste rather than having to give up gluten, dairy, sugar or whatever food group du jour is terrible for you. Nauman, the restaurant’s event planner and managing chef, was inspired to host these bi-monthly dinners after having silent meals at an Indian monastery. My foray into spiritual evolution through eating didn’t start out well. We were late and the last people seated. I was not relaxed. In fact, I was pretty annoyed — the restaurant was hot, I was frustrated about being late, and just generally grumpy due to the cloudy weather. Nauman greeted the 24-person crowd and instructed everyone to turn off their cell phones before the meal began. My boyfriend and I smiled at our dining companions seated with us at the communal table — two chemists from Harlem and two women from the neighborhood — and said nothing. I was ready to be enlightened.

THE THIRD METRIC

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Would I eat less and/or slower since I was more focused on the food and not the people? Would I experience a heightened sense of taste? When the salad course arrived, I was extremely self-conscious. Perhaps I was chewing too loudly and disturbing other patrons. And my nose was running a bit — was my sniffling ruining the mood? The salad greens were really hard to cut;

I’d like to consider myself a mindful eater, but in reality, I probably err more on the side of a mindless eater.” I was convinced everyone must have thought I was a savage as I gave up using my knife and shoveled large pieces of greens into my mouth. I wasn’t experiencing any sort of taste nirvana; I was just trying to finish the course without anyone noticing I was a sniffling mess who may have chewed with my mouth open a couple of times. While the salad was tasty enough, it wasn’t anything special. But I was finally able to relax


Exit during the soup course because the celery root puree tasted like something a friend might make you on a cold night. I felt nurtured. It was at this point that I realized I didn’t feel like I was dining in a restaurant or participating in a strange social experiment. I just felt content with the fact that someone was feeding me, and the food was good. During the next two courses, I didn’t have any deep thoughts or learn intimate truths about myself that would ultimately lead me to become a better person. I was happy to eat quietly, silently observe the setting and think about the food I was putting in my body. I was calm. I felt more relaxed than I had the whole weekend. There was nothing to distract me at this dinner — the noises from the kitchen and the movements of other diners eventually became part of the background. After dessert, Nauman thanked everyone for coming, and there was a round of applause. People milled about and reflected on the experience. I turned my phone back on, and realized that I hadn’t missed it the entire time. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I didn’t post the apple cinnamon

THE THIRD METRIC

crepes on Instagram or check my email for more than two hours. And mostly, I realized that I didn’t miss anything by having my phone off and my mouth shut. Our table had mixed reactions about the meal — my boyfriend was bored and the two women, who looked zen-like throughout the meal, said they had hoped for a more playful experience. The chemists were fairly nonplussed.

Would I eat less and/or slower since I was more focused on the food and not the people? Would I experience a heightened sense of taste?” Will I make silent dinners a regular part of my routine? Probably not. But when I’m eating dinner at home, I will remind myself to shut the laptop, put my phone far away and appreciate the food in front of me. A convivial dinner with friends is one of my favorite activities, but a silent one can occasionally be equally enjoyable.

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13


Exit

TASTE TEST

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

The Most Flavorful Chip of All BY KRISTEN AIKEN

F YOU’RE of the “a chip is a chip” mindset, you clearly haven’t eaten enough chips. Because we just tasted 12 brands of sour cream and onion chips, and even the low tasters of our bunch could decipher some pretty distinguishable differences between the best and the worst. There’s a reason you buy sour cream and onion chips — presumably, it’s because you want your chips to taste like sour cream and onion. Most of the time, you’re lucky if they just taste like onion

I

PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAMON DAHLEN

powder, as sour cream “flavor” can be very elusive. Because really, what’s sour cream except “tangy” once you turn it into a powder and strip it of its cool and creamy attributes? So for true sour cream and onion perfection, what you’re really looking for is a solid balance of salt, onion, tang and crispiness. Plus, it’s got to pack enough punch. Basically, we want flavor powder all over our fingers and faces by the time we’re done. We rounded up 12 popular brands and blind-tasted them. Check out the results below for the ranking, and read our comments before you head out to the store for your next bag.

As always, this taste test is in no way sponsored or influenced by any of the brands involved. Or anyone, really.


HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

TASTE TEST

Exit

TAP FOR THE TASTERS’ VERDICTS

CAPE COD

LAY’S

LAY’S STAX

RUFFLES

365 BAKED

HERR’S

PRINGLES

DIRTY

UTZ

365 EVERYDAY VALUE

KETTLE BAKES

BOPS


Exit

MUSIC

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

Dog Ears: From Gospel to Psych Rock In which we spotlight music from a diversity of genres and decades, lending an insider’s ear to what deserves to be heard. BY THE EVERLASTING PHIL RAMONE AND DANIELLE EVIN

JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN Joan As Police Woman is the brainchild of singer/multi-instrumentalist Joan Wasser. Born in Biddeford, Maine, Wasser attended Boston University, with a focus on violin. She built an admirable rep on Boston’s heavily competitive music scene during the ’90s. By 2002, in New York, Wasser formed her trio with a revolving cast including drummers Ben Perowsky and Parker Kindred and bassists Rainy Orteca, Timo Ellis and Tyler Wood. With a near dozen releases to date, the Independent Music Award recipient has collaborated with Jeff Buckley, Sheryl Crow, Rufus Wainwright, Antony and the Johnsons, Elton John, the Scissor Sisters and Lou Reed, among others. Download “Start of My Heart,” from her 2008 pièce de résistance To Survive. TAP HERE TO BUY: iTunes.com GENRE: Singer/Songwriter ARTIST: Joan As Police Woman SONG: Start of My Heart ALBUM: To Survive

JEREMY ENIGK

PÄRSON SOUND

Seattle-bred singer/songwriter Jeremy Enigk, born at the close of the Nixon era, started making records as frontman of Sunny Day Real Estate by the early ’90s. When the band went on hiatus in 1996, Enigk released his first solo effort, Return of the Frog Queen. In the aughts, he founded The Fire Theft and refreshed with Sunny Day Real Estate co-pilots William Goldsmith and Nate Mendel. Collaborations include Poor Old Lu, Bare Minimum, Scott Hunter, Rosie Thomas, Thirty Ought Six, Jeff Palmer and a 21-piece orchestra! Credits include the score for The United States of Leland (unissued) and a collective 10 releases to date. Get “Sant Feliu de Guixols,” from Jeremy Enigk’s 2009 set OK Bear.

Pärson Sound is the Swedish psychrock/jazz orchestra founded in 1967 comprising Bo Anders Persson (guitar), Thomas Tidholm (vocals, sax, flute), Arne Ericsson (cello), Torbjörn Abelli (bass), Urban Yman (violin) and Thomas Mera Gartz (drums). The ensemble stuck it out for just over a year, recording one ahead-of-itstime collection. In 1968, they were featured in Andy Warhol’s Moderna Museet (Stockholm) installation. After disbandment, the core players refreshed first as International Harvester and later as Träd, Gräs & Stenar. From the ’60s through the aughts, they’ve pooled 10-plus projects. Enjoy 20 minutes and 31 seconds of “From Tunis to India in Fullmoon (On Testosterone),” from their 1968 soundscape Pärson Sound. A traffic jam of delirious melody.

TAP HERE TO BUY: iTunes.com GENRE: Alternative ARTIST: Jeremy Enigk SONG: Sant Feliu de Guixols ALBUM: OK Bear

TAP HERE TO BUY: iTunes.com GENRE: Psych Rock ARTIST: Pärson Sound SONG: From Tunis to India in Fullmoon (On Testosterone) ALBUM: Pärson Sound


Exit

DOROTHY LOVE COATES Gospel singer extraordinaire and civil-rights activist Dorothy Love Coates was born in 1928 in Birmingham, Alabama. Regarded as a high priestess of gospel by Little Richard, Coates was the main engine of the Alabama-based Original Gospel Harmonettes, serving as vocalist and arranger. Often, during performances, Coates got so caught up in the spirit that members of the group would have to steer her back to the stage. It’s said that Mr. James Brown fashioned some of his dramatic stage moves on her style. After her daughter was born with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, Coates virtually retired to care for her. Her last recording was in 1970; she died in 2002. The postwar title “Trouble,” from the album The Great Gospel Women, has magnitude and grace. TAP HERE TO BUY: iTunes.com GENRE: Gospel ARTIST: Dorothy Love Coates SONG: Trouble ALBUM: The Great Gospel Women

MUSIC

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

JACKIE WILSON

RED NICHOLS

Soul/R&B crooner Jackie Wilson was born in Motor City amid the Great Depression. Young Jackie grew up on devotionals and started singing as a child. After tween membership in The Eveready Gospel Singers, Jackie headed into teenage entanglements with the law — and time at a correctional facility — where he picked up boxing, qualifying for the Golden Gloves at age 16. By the early ’50s, he got back into music, recording for Dizzy Gillespie’s Dee Gee label as “Sonny” Wilson. From there his trajectory was set via The Thrillers, Royals, The Dominos, and a solo career that gave way to countless chart-toppers and dozens of releases. Collaborations include Count Basie, Berry Gordy, Billy Ward, and Billy Davis. His personal life was riddled with misfortune and a heart attack in 1975 (whilst performing at a Dick Clark concert) that ended the superstar’s career. Wilson spent the remainder of his life in continual care, passing away at the age of 49 in 1984. The Grammy Hall of Famer was also posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1987) and honored by the R&B Foundation’s Legacy Tribute Award (2003). Remember him with “Doggin’ Around,” from his 1960 collection Jackie Sings the Blues.

Composer/bandleader and master of the cornet Ernest Loring “Red” Nichols was born in 1905 in Utah, the son of a music professor. At the age of 4, Ernest got hooked on the cornet, and by his teens, he was touring the Midwest with a variety of dance bands. Red hit New York City to stay in 1923, started recording (mostly as Red Nichols and His Five Pennies), and had his first million-seller by 1927. During the Depression, Nichols captained Bob Hope’s orchestra on radio. Collaborations include Miff Mole, the Dorseys, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa and Paul Whiteman. Accolades include inductions into the Big Band and Jazz and the Culver Military Academies Halls of Fame and the Arts & Letters Award. The maestro passed away in 1965 and leaves behind an extensive collection. Remember him with his 1927 “Ida (Sweet as Apple Cider),” from Quadromania’s release Red Nichols Featuring Jimmy Dorsey, P.W. Russell.

TAP HERE TO BUY: iTunes.com GENRE: Soul/R&B ARTIST: Jackie Wilson SONG: Doggin’ Around ALBUM: Jackie Sings the Blues

TAP HERE TO BUY: iTunes.com GENRE: Jazz ARTIST: Red Nichols SONG: Ida (Sweet as Apple Cider) ALBUM: Red Nichols Featuring Jimmy Dorsey, P.W. Russell


01

TFU

Exit

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

RYAN LANE/GETTY IMAGES (FLAG); SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES (MCDONALD’S); RICKY’S.COM; MYSHREDDIES.COM (UNDERWEAR); MICHAEL LOCCISANO/FILMMAGIC/GETTY IMAGES (CYRUS)

Most Americans Don’t Think the American Dream Is Possible Anymore

2

McDonald’s Tells Worker She Should Sign Up for Food Stamps

3

THE ‘ANNA REXIA’ HALLOWEEN COSTUME RESURFACES

05 4

Fart-Filtering Underwear Now Exists

High School Makes Students Sign Contract Banning Provocative Moves at School Dances


Exit

JACOB MOISAN/GETTY IMAGES (ARTIC TEMPERATURES); RON BAILEY/GETTY IMAGES (GUN); ANDY KROPA/GETTY IMAGES (FOX); AP PHOTO/DANNY JOHNSTON (TEACHER); AP PHOTO/UC DAVIS DATELINE, DAVE JONES, FILE (COP)

6

7

TFU

HUFFINGTON 11.03.13

ARCTIC TEMPERATURES ARE AT THEIR HIGHEST IN 44,000 YEARS

There’s a Hidden Market for Guns... on Instagram

8

FOX NEWS PLANTED FALSE STORY TO BURN REPORTER, BOOK CLAIMS

9

Teacher Forced to Resign After Marrying Her Girlfriend

10

The PepperSpraying Cop Somehow Received a $38K Settlement


Editor-in-Chief:

Arianna Huffington Editor: John Montorio Managing Editor: Gazelle Emami Senior Editor: Adam J. Rose Editor-at-Large: Katy Hall Senior Politics Editor: Sasha Belenky Senior Food Editor: Kristen Aiken Senior Voices Editor: Stuart Whatley Pointers Editor: Marla Friedman Quoted Editor: Gina Ryder Viral Editor: Dean Praetorius Creative Director: Josh Klenert Design Director: Andrea Nasca Photography Director: Anna Dickson Associate Photo Editor: Wendy George Senior Designer: Martin Gee Infographics Art Director: Troy Dunham Production Director: Peter Niceberg AOL MagCore Head of UX and Design: Jeremy LaCroix Product Manager: Gabriel Giordani Architect: Scott Tury Developers: Mike Levine, Sudheer Agrawal QA: Joyce Wang, Amy Golliver Sales: Mandar Shinde AOL, Inc. Chairman & CEO:

Tim Armstrong

PHOTO OR ILLUSTRATION CREDIT TK

Huffington (Issue #73)  

In this week's issue of Huffington magazine, we present a powerful investigative feature, six months in the making, that chronicles how a pr...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you