SOURCE: THE FLORIDA TIMES-UNION
Lawsuits against Hastings Youth Academy, a 165-bed facility for troubled teens in St. Johns County, accuse staff members of repeatedly using excessive force and conspiring to cover it up.
G4S Youth Services, which contracts with the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to run the boys program, is accused in one of the suits of negligence on behalf of a teen whose shoulder was shattered by an employee in February 2008.
That suit, filed this month, claims G4S and the department ignored past problems and didn’t properly protect Anthony Vessels, 16. The boy’s attorney said surveillance video shows the employee throwing the youth to the ground, then sitting on him as he writhed in pain.
In another lawsuit, a former employee is suing G4S under the Florida whistleblower law. The employee says she was fired by G4S for reporting incidents of excessive force against boys at the facility. The lawsuit accuses G4S managers of failing to report incidents of excessive use of force against youths. The state requires such facilities to let authorities know each time force is used, whether it’s considered excessive or not.
Mike Powers, a spokesman for G4S, said he couldn’t comment specifically on the suits. But he said that the company follows the law and makes sure staffers are trained to state standards.