Three State Schools Accused of Abuse in ACLU Lawsuit

Tallahassee, attorneys for youth in three juvenile institutions, including
the Florida School for Boys in Okeechobee, sued the state in federal court
yesterday, alleging overcrowding, beatings and other constitutional

The class-action suit, filed in US district Leon County, claims
incarcerated youngster are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment,
ranging from the inadequate food, programs and medical care, to staff
assaults and shackling.

Wesley Brazell, superintended at Okeechobee, denied youngsters were
shackled at his institution and said: we do not violate the rules set forth
by the state of Florida. He said Florida law prohibits shackling. The rules
do not allow hog-tying, and we follow the rules.

In the lawsuit attorneys said staff members and Okeechobee hog-tied
youngsters for up to 1 1/2 hours and left them lying on their stomachs in
isolation cells.

The kids arms are shackled behind their back, their ankles are shackled
behind her back, then their arms and ankles connected with leather straps
or chains. At that point they are lying on their stomachs, said Claudia
Wright, an attorney with the National Prison Project of the American Civil
Liberties Union.

She said attorneys have asked for a preliminary injunction prohibiting
authorities from shackling youngsters and from what she called the
extensive use of solitary confinement. At Okeechobee, she said, the use of
leg irons, belly chains and handcuffs, has been going on for a long time.

Juvenile delinquents also are restricted in communicating with friends and
relatives and denied adequate and said his record, civil rights complaint
said. The criminal justice system for kids in the state is out of control,
said Dr. David Fogel, a Chicago consultant who will serve as an expert
witness in the case.

The suit was brought by youth advocates on behalf of some 1000 children and
teens confined in three training schools for delinquent, the Arthur G.
Dozier school for boys in Marianna, coeducational Alyce D. McPherson, the
Pearson School in Ocala and the Florida School for Boys and Okeechobee.
Named as defendants were superintendent of the three youth prisons, Gov.
Bob Graham, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, secretary
David Pingree and Education Commissioner Ralph Turlington.

Health and Rehabilitative Services oversees the institution and the
Education Department oversees academic programs. Judy Fendrich an HRS
assistant general counsel, said department officials would not comment on
the suit until it is reviewed. However, she said HRS would send an
investigative team next week to determine if hog-tying, when handcuffs and
ankle cuffs are fastened behind the back, is continuing against HRS policy.

An October report by the HRS Generals Office confirmed youths were hogtied
at the Dozier School. Superintendent Lenox Williams said last week the
practice had stopped. If in fact, that practice is still continuing, we
will take immediate steps to stop it, Ms. Fendrich said.

Although much of the lawsuit is expected to drag out over several years,
lawyers are seeking an immediate end to hog-tying.

We found this practice was taking place in all three institutions and we
believe it's still going on today, said lawyer Claudia Wright of the
American Civil Liberties Union.

Fogal, who toured the three institutions this week, said he found evidence
of self-mutilation, 16 hr staff shifts, excessive confinement in isolation
and other violations,

They do not comply with their own policy manuals, he said, adding, The real
problem (is) you need (outside) monitoring in this.