Monday, December 17, 2007

Florida State NAACP President calls for a thorough investigation of Florida's Juvenile Justice system

NAACP National Board of Directors member and Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze was joined by a state assemblywoman and a college professor on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Dec 13th, to testify before a subcommittee focused oversight of state-run juvenile correctional facilities, commonly known as youth boot camps. Nweze detailed some of the past abuses that occurred and cited the disparate number of black Florida youth currently in the custody of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice.

Since 2000, seven young black men have died while in custody at youth correctional facilities in Florida. Although last year’s death of 14-year old Martin Lee Anderson led Florida to close its youth boot camp operations, privately run, state-funded juvenile detention facilities are still plagued by abuse and negelct, Nweze said.

“Black Floridians are outraged that the state continues to neglect, harm and even kill our youth and appear to get away with it,” Nweze told the committee. “I am here today to ask that you use your oversight powers to urge the United States Department of Justice to launch a thorough investigation of the State of Florida’s juvenile justice system. It is incumbent upon the federal government to ensure that the rights of Florida’s children are being protected, and from our viewpoint it does not appear that they are.”

The Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security of the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives conducted the hearing to examine the effectiveness of boot camp programs and probe their lack of regulation that has led to serious abuses and deaths.

Anderson tragically died while in custody at the Bay County Boot Camp last year. On Oct. 12 an all white jury acquitted seven deputies and a nurse who participated in the videotaped violent abuse of Anderson that resulted in his death hours later. The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to review the case for civil rights violations.

In addition to Anderson since 2000, Michael Willtise,12, died at Camp E-Kel-ETU in Marion County, Fla.; 13-year old Shawn Smith, died at the Volusia Regional Detention Center; Omar Paisley, 17, died at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center; Daniel Matthews, 17, died at Pinellas Regional Juevenile Detention Center; Brian Farmer, also 17, died at the Okeechobee Officer Correctional Center; and Willie Durden, 18, died at the Cyprus Creek Juvenile Correction Center.

“The juvenile justice system in Florida has the unfortunate habit of dehumanizing the children who are sent there, just when they need to be shown care, love and attention and taught that they are worth something,” Nweze added.

The increase in reports of violence and overly aggressive prosecution against African American youth by law enforcement officials has led the NAACP to declare a ‘State of Emergency’ that requires immediate action by local and state authorities as well as the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress.

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Anonymous,  December 18, 2007 at 3:22 PM  

Give me a break! Whites are killing blacks? The young black men on the street are killing each other faster than they are dying in boot camps. As a former officer, I think the officers took too long to subdue Anderson. They should have put him down and handcuffed him immediately, instead of wrestling around with him.

But the officers are at fault because Anderson was disorderly and refused to comply with legal orders to stop resisting and submit to restraints.

Is'nt he really the one to blame?

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