Florida Institute for Girls
Palm Beach, Florida
Youth Services International (formerly run by Lighthouse Care Centers, Premier Behavioral Solutions,
formerly Ramsay)
June 17, 2006 Palm Beach Post


A new program for juvenile offenders is scheduled to open today with the
arrival of more than 20 teens. The Palm Beach Juvenile Correctional Facility
will take over the maximum-security prison that formerly housed the Florida
Institute for Girls. A private, for-profit company, Youth Services
International, will receive $3.6 million a year to run the facility under contract
with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The first boys in the
program will be transferred from a Miami-Dade County program for young
offenders that is closing this month. Eventually, the program near the South
Florida Fairgrounds will hold 80 boys sentenced by juvenile court judges
around the region. Youth Services International plans to have a clinical
director and five therapists on staff to help rehabilitate the teens. The
facility's director will be Jeffrey Glover, who most recently led the
Thompson Academy, a program for boys in Broward County. The Palm
Beach County program represents a fresh start for the company, a former
division of the Correctional Services Corporation. The company pulled out of
a similar program in Pahokee in 1999 after the state uncovered fraudulent
billing and mismanagement.

March 27, 2006 Palm Beach Post
Months after declaring the Florida Institute for Girls a failed experiment, the
state decided to reopen its top-security building as a program for 80 boys.
The Department of Juvenile Justice advertised the new program in January.
But private companies that specialize in reforming troubled youth weren't
interested. The agency offered $124.80 per teen, per day, about $40 less
than the cost of state-run detention centers. After years of extreme cost
cutting, most private companies agree they can no longer promise to help
difficult teens — or even guarantee their safety. Lacking a single bid, the
state has turned to Youth Services International, a Sarasota-based company
headed by Correctional Services Corp. founder James Slattery. The
company is now negotiating to take over the program. Correctional
Services, which acquired Youth Services International in 1998, managed a
program for 350 boys in Pahokee that made national news for
mismanagement and abuse. Like the Florida Institute for Girls, the Pahokee
Youth Development Center drew fire for excessive force, lack of meaningful
treatment and poorly trained guards. Correctional Services held 10 teens
beyond their release dates so it could bill the state for more money,
canceled school for 13 days running and failed to produce some budget
records. The prison got a quality score of 37 out of a possible 100 before the
company and state mutually decided to end the contract in 1999. According
to the Florida Juvenile Justice Association, which represents the state's
private contractors, buildings are falling into disrepair because there is no
money to fix them. Community service projects meant to teach children
responsibility are canceled because there aren't enough workers to watch
them. Companies say they have replaced nurses and psychologists with
less qualified employees who are unable to deal with the children's medical
and emotional problems. Juveniles whose lives are already in upheaval are
mentored by an ever-changing roster of guards, who typically last no more
than a year on the job. Many of those workers in private residential
programs make so little that they qualify for food stamps, according to a
recent state report. Some are routinely required to guard difficult and violent
youth for 16 hours straight because so many of their co-workers have quit.
Executives at G4S Youth Services LLC, a division of the global security firm
Group 4 Securicor, thought about bidding on the Palm Beach boys program
but passed. The company, which took over the failing Pahokee program in
1999, has told the state it is within "a heartbeat" of pulling out of one of the
six programs it runs in Florida because it can't keep good workers. The
company has lost more than 600 workers in its state programs since May
2005, Chief Operating Officer John Morgenthau said. Even experienced
workers committed to the juvenile justice field are quitting.

August 31, 2005 Palm Beach Post
The last teens left the Florida Institute for Girls Tuesday, bringing an end to a
program many believed was a failed experiment in the treatment of young
offenders. At one time, nearly 100 girls lived behind barbed wire and
clanging doors at the maximum-security prison near the South Florida
Fairgrounds. The facility, built at a cost of $7.9 million, will remain empty
until Department of Juvenile Justice officials decide whether they can use it
for another program. Five years after it opened, the Florida Institute for Girls
is a monument to a philosophy state leaders want to change. Juvenile
justice officials now believe imposing prisons don't work for female
offenders and likely will replace the program with several smaller programs
elsewhere in Florida. For years, the Florida Institute for Girls was a high-
profile problem for the state. Workers for private companies who started at
little more than $8 an hour often failed to control aggressive girls. 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. The first company to run the prison — Premier
Behavioral Solutions — lost its contract in 2004 when a Palm Beach County
grand jury found it had scrimped on staff to save money, locking girls in
their rooms and forcing them to miss school and activities because there
weren't enough guards to watch them. Other privately run Juvenile Justice
programs also have failed in Palm Beach County. In February, the state
moved 20 girls out of the South Florida Halfway House in Lantana after
repeated reports of escapes and fights. The state outsourced the halfway
house to the for-profit company Psychotherapeutic Services in 2003,
replacing a successful program for boys run by the state. Another 20-bed
program for teen offenders, the Palm Beach Juvenile Residential Facility in
West Palm Beach, closed in 2004. The private company that ran the program
— Personal Enrichment through Mental Health Services — had trouble
breaking even on the small program. A new contractor now uses the
building as office space for a program that helps troubled teens after they
are released.

August 28, 2005 Sun-Sentinel
The concrete hallways of Florida's maximum-security prison for girls, once
filled with the echoes of nearly 100 troubled youth, will settle into silence
Tuesday when the last of the teens is shipped off to another juvenile facility.
Frustrated state legislators have unceremoniously shut down the scandal-
ridden Florida Institute for Girls, west of West Palm Beach, only five years
after it opened. At least one juvenile-justice advocate hailed the closure as
the "right thing to do," since the state has been unable to heal the problem-
plagued prison once touted as the last hope for some of Florida's most
difficult juveniles. Despite intense scrutiny by the state Department of
Juvenile Justice, each of the two private providers hired to run the prison
had been unable to effectively control the violent girls, treat their deep-
seated emotional and psychological problems and curb the inappropriate
relationships they developed with guards. Over the years, the facility had
been besieged by reports of girls viciously attacking their peers and their
guards. Some girls have repeatedly attempted suicide. Others have been
injured numerous times after being physically restrained by staff members.
Under the watch of the first provider, two guards pleaded guilty to engaging
in criminal sexual misconduct with girls. Increasing trouble at the prison led
Palm Beach County State Attorney Barry Krischer to impanel a grand jury in
2003 to investigate. Another provider soon was chosen to take over. While
some conditions improved under Lighthouse Care Centers, state Juvenile
Justice officials still were concerned by the lack of appropriate therapy for
the girls. And just a few weeks ago, scandal rocked the prison again after a
44-year-old worker was arrested for having sex with a 15-year-old inmate.

May 27, 2005 Tallahassee Democrat
A new $12 million center, surrounded by razor wire on the edge of the
Everglades west of Miami, will soon house up to 80 high-risk teens, letting
the Juvenile Justice Department close two aging facilities nearby, state
officials said Thursday.    Being closed are the Florida City Youth Center and
Southern Glades Youth Camp, both in far southwestern Miami-Dade County.
The two being closed are run by the same company that manages the
embattled Florida Institute for Girls in Palm Beach County, which was
already planned for closure later this year. A week before the closure of the
Florida Institute for Girls was announced, the department criticized the
quality of mental-health services provided by the contract company. No one
answered the phone at Premier's offices late Thursday.

May 7, 2005 Sun-Sentinel
Come Oct. 1, the stark prison once hailed as a beacon of hope for Florida's
most dangerous girls - but most recently tainted by scandal - will close its
massive metal doors. Stunned state officials and managers of the Florida
Institute for Girls west of West Palm Beach were notified last week of the
Legislature's decision to cut funding for the facility, but they weren't given a
timeframe for closure. Now they're scrambling to evaluate the psychological
needs and security requirements of the 67 girls who remain. Within months,
they must decide which girls are ready to re-enter society and whether
there is enough space in the state's five high-risk facilities for female
juveniles to absorb the rest. They've got a tough job ahead of them,
considering the maximum-security prison was created five years ago
specifically to fill a void in rehabilitative options for serious female juvenile
offenders. When it opened to fanfare in April 2000, everyone - from
advocates to prosecutors - praised the institute as progressive. Finally, they
said, the state was taking a serious look at the needs of girls who previously
had been ignored by the system. The prison, with its razor-wire fencing and
daily therapy sessions, was considered the answer. But Cassandra Jenkins,
then an official with the Department of Juvenile Justice, had her
reservations. "I think the main concern was the structure, having a punitive
model that did not have enough rehabilitative and treatment services to
really address the needs of the girls," said Jenkins, who's now with the
Children's Campaign, a nonprofit advocacy group in Florida. "Unfortunately,
those concerns proved to be true." Within months of opening, allegations
surfaced of rampant violence and inappropriate sexual activity between
guards and girls. Two guards eventually pleaded guilty to criminal sexual
misconduct with girls. At least four girls suffered broken arms while being
physically restrained by guards. And girls constantly were being arrested for
attacking staff members. The prison's management acknowledged it was
completely unprepared for the girls' rage and severe psychological needs.
One broke the prison director's nose. Another smashed a TV and then
chased staff with a large shard of glass. In June 2003, Palm Beach County
State Attorney Barry Krischer declared the 100-bed facility "a disaster
waiting to happen" and called for a grand-jury investigation. Less than a year
later, the private, for-profit company running the prison relinquished control.
Lighthouse Care Centers took over under a $21 million, five-year contract.

April 18, 2005 Palm Beach Post
A former supervisor at the Florida Institute for Girls says she quit in
frustration because the for-profit company that manages the program
repeatedly put its bottom line ahead of the girls' needs. Martha Hargrave, the
prison's former senior treatment coordinator, said she told leaders there for
a year that workers were overwhelmed by the problems of difficult and
sometimes suicidal girls arrested for serious crimes. She believed the
company, which runs the maximum-security juvenile lockup under contract
with the state, stuck with less-qualified and inexperienced staff to save
money on salaries. "I kept listening to all the profit-margin talk, and I was
just sickened," Hargrave said Friday. "It seemed like all they are interested
in doing is saving pennies." State monitors recently agreed that the youth
prison's therapy program isn't working. The private company, Lighthouse
Care Centers LLC, will have to hire more master's-level therapists or lose its
five-year, $21 million state contract to run the center in suburban West Palm
Beach, officials said. Lighthouse Care Centers took over the prison in May
2004, after a Palm Beach County grand jury criticized the previous
contractor, Premier Behavioral Solutions, for allowing abuses at the juvenile
lockup. Four girls' arms were broken in violent restraints, and a staff
member was convicted of having sex with two girls in a bathroom. Grand
jurors said Premier Behavioral Solutions deliberately skimped on staff to
save money, sometimes locking girls in their rooms and forcing them to
miss class because there weren't enough workers to watch them. But the
facility has continued to struggle with staff shortages and turnover. The jobs
there are among the most difficult in the state juvenile system: Many of the
girls have a history of violent crime, and many end up there because no
other program could control them. But salaries for most workers at the
privately run prison remain well below wages at state-run detention centers.
Both private companies that have managed the facility have struggled to
stay within budget while meeting state standards. Hargrave, who was hired
at the prison in July 2003, said she came to believe it was impossible for the
center to improve without spending more money. She attended an April 11
meeting between company leaders and state officials, and said she was
discouraged by the company's focus on the costs of improving its mental
health services. "There was a lot of back and forth about the money, and it
just seemed to me such a critical point for those girls. Again the girls come
last, and what are we looking at first, we're looking at the money," Hargrave
said. "You'd have thought somebody had said, 'Go get some blood out of
that rock over there.' " The same week, the facility's executive director,
Christine Tappan, told staff she would leave her position at the end of June.
Her reasons for leaving weren't related to work: She said she needs to
spend more time with her 12-year-old son but will remain with the company
in a less demanding position. Hargrave said she was even more
demoralized when Tappan, the leader who had tried to rally the staff to stay,
was stepping down. Hargrave quit without notice Wednesday, along with a
clinical director who has not spoken publicly about the reason for leaving.

April 15, 2005 Sun Sentinel
The state Department of Juvenile Justice this week warned the private
company that runs the state's maximum-security prison for girls: Fix your
treatment program or lose your contract. Sound familiar? That may be
because just last year, the Florida Institute for Girls' former provider, which
had managed the facility for four years, gave up its contract after the state
threatened to yank it for continually failing to control violence and keep the
girls and the guards safe. Despite a few hitches, including an escape attempt
by two girls in March, Lighthouse Care Centers -- which took over in May
2004 -- has done a good job regaining control over the program, said Darryl
Olson, Juvenile Justice's regional director for residential and correctional
services. But after a year of trying, it still has not met the severely disturbed
girls' therapeutic needs. And while Lighthouse struggles to provide intense
counseling to the facility's emotionally disturbed and mentally ill girls, it
continues to lose vital staff. This week, the prison's executive director told
her employees she's resigning. Then on Wednesday, two high-ranking staff
in the mental health unit walked out of the facility located west of West Palm
Beach. Under Lighthouse's $21 million, five-year contract with the state, one
treatment coordinator -- who must provide both therapeutic and case
management services -- can only treat eight girls. Olson said Lighthouse has
never been able to meet that ratio. "[Lighthouse] has been having difficulty
recruiting therapists ... ," Olson said. Meanwhile this week, Christine Tappan,
the prison's executive director, resigned. Tappan will stay on through the
transition to the new treatment program and leave her management role at
the prison sometime in June. She cited personal reasons for her departure,
Schneider said, adding she will remain on in some capacity with Lighthouse.
Also this week, the prison's clinical director and senior treatment
coordinator quit without notice. The clinical director declined to comment.
But the senior treatment coordinator said she left because of intense stress
put on the mental health services team during the past few months. "I was
extremely concerned about the quality of services that were being given to
the girls," said Martha Hargrave, who had worked at the facility since July
2003 and has a master's degree in counseling as well as 10 years of
experience. "I felt I had been pushed way past my limit and my own
capabilities were deteriorating as a result. "There was no end in site."
Hargrave said turnover among mental health staff was a major problem and
some were "in over their heads." Many of the girls at the facility have been
victims of sexual as well as physical and emotional abuse. Some are sexual
offenders and others suffer from depression, bipolar disorder and other
serious mental illnesses. Since opening the facility in 2000 under Premier
Behavioral Solutions, Florida Institute for Girls had been plagued with
hundreds of allegations of physical abuse, sexual misbehavior and poor
supervision. Two employees pleaded guilty to criminal sexual misconduct
with three girls. Girls had been arrested numerous times for assaulting staff
and other girls. And four girls suffered broken arms while being physically
restrained. The violence led to a grand jury investigation, which found a lack
of training, massive turnover, persistent staff shortages and a general sense
of unrest at the facility.

April 4, 2005 Palm Beach Post
Almost a year after the state Department of Juvenile Justice replaced a
private company for mismanaging the Florida Institute for Girls, too many
improvements at the state's only maximum-security girls prison haven't
been made. A surprise inspection March 17 of the prison near the South
Florida Fairgrounds in suburban West Palm Beach found graffiti on the walls,
unorganized and insecure classrooms, "disorderly" dorms, unrestricted
access to inappropriate Internet Web sites, and poor supervision, including
several staff just "sitting around." The inspection was ordered because two
girls had tried to escape earlier in the month. Lighthouse Care Centers has
run the prison since May 2004. Like its predecessor, it has high staff
turnover. Lighthouse also needs to do a better job handling poor behavior
by the inmates, inspectors found. Teachers at the prison need better training
on safety and security procedures, and need to use more learning materials
in the classrooms. The inspectors noted that "there are a number of
strengths in this program's operation." But the weaknesses remain
inexcusable.