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Florida Closes Scandal Ridden Girls Facility, Takes Over Control of Another Juvenile Facility

Only five years after it was opened, legislators have shut down the scandal ridden Florida Institute for Girls (FIG) built at a cost of $7.9 million, FIG will remain empty until Floridas Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) decides if they can use it for another program. It will cost $18,000 a month to maintain the empty building.

FIG was constructed to handle the toughest girlsthose charged with crimes such as manslaughter, battery, carjacking, and rape. DJJ contracted with two private companies to run the facility. Both failed horribly to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Premier Behavioral Services lost its contract in 2004 when a Palm Beach County Grand Jury found it had scrimped on staff to save money, locking girls in the rooms, and forcing them to miss school, and activities because there werent enough guards to watch them. While Premier operated FIG, four teens arms were broken in violent restraints and three workers were arrested on charges of molesting or having sex with girls they were supposed to protect.

Lighthouse Care Centers made 83 of 84 improvements recommended by the grand jury. State monitors, however, found the company wasnt providing counseling and mental health programs required in his contract. Legislators ordered the program closed.

Closing FIG is the right thing to do, said Cassandra Jenkins, juvenile-justice director at Childrens Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group in Tallahassee. I think it... points to the fact that large, prison-like warehouses dont work with girls and, in my opinion any juveniles, and that staff have to be thoroughly trained and monitored to ensure the program and services are appropriately implemented.

In its final month of operation, scandal again hit FIG when William Lane, 44, was arrested on August 17, 2005, for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in her cell on their early morning shift July 27. On the night he had sex with the teen, Lanes hair was braided by the teen. She asked for money in exchange, and Lane agreed to buy her candy, soda, and food. After he returned with the food, they had sex in a cell. The teen told authorities she later grew angry with Lane because he did not give her the $50 she requested.

Of the 60 girls that remained at FIG on its August 31 closing, 25 were released for completing the program. The rest were transferred to four other high risk facilities for girls.

The juvenile justice business is proving to not only be problematic for companies, but also unprofitable. State lawmakers had to move $2.41 million for 46 full-time workers to run the Southwest Juvenile Detention Center because no companies submitted bids to run the facility, which had been run by Securicor New Century, a Virginia based firm, since 2003.
Securicor said it could not get enough money to attract money to ensure contract performance. Of the 46 full-time employees hired by the state, 34 are Securicor holdovers.

Sources: Sun-Sentinel; Palm Beach Post;

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