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Dark secrets of Florida juvenile justice: ‘honey bun hits,’ illicit sex, cover-ups

Front entranceway of the Palm Beach Youth Academy in West palm Beach.
Front entranceway of the Palm Beach Youth Academy in West palm Beach. Miami Herald

Fight Club: A Miami Herald Investigation into Florida’s juvenile justice system

The Department of Juvenile Justice calls its philosophy “tough love.”

But a Miami Herald I-Team analysis of 10 years of seldom-seen records reveals an emphasis on the “tough.”

Documents, interviews and surveillance videos show a disturbing pattern of beatings doled out or ordered by underpaid officers, hundreds of them prison system rejects. Youthful enforcers are rewarded with sweet pastries from the employee vending machines, a phenomenon known as “honey-bunning.” The Herald found fights staged for entertainment, wagering and to exert control, sex between staff and youthful detainees and a culture of see-nothing/say-nothing denial.

Herald journalists also examined 12 questionable deaths of detained youths since 2000.

In the end, untold numbers of already troubled youths have been further traumatized.

With a one-year recidivism rate of 45 percent, it is a justice system that is supposed to reform juvenile delinquents, but too often turns them into hardened felons.

Read the full series here.

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