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Students preparing for class in a Michigan school.
By Rev. Dennis Segall

Two ministers have traveled our land showing how our children are being hurt nation-wide by the system in place to help and rehabilitate them. According to them, Missouri and Delaware are the only two states that genuinely rehabilitate their youth.

Why do our youth quite often commit a misdemeanor by giving an alias? The answer is simple, to cover up the fact that they committed some wrong act under their name.

When HRS was in hot water, they changed their name. I walk through the halls of W. T. Edwards, the name given to the new DJJ building in Tampa, Florida (also the name for the old HRS building in Tampa). The building hadn't changed. I noticed the names upon the doors — Larry Lumpy, and others — my gosh, the names were the same. I waited a while to ascertain if the children were still being routinely abused in their programs. They were. So what had changed? The name changed, to cover up the not so innocent.

Recently a group of us took a group of youth to Tallahassee. The objective was to try to fight for at-risk youth in Florida. A boy had just been murdered in plain view of the whole world, and what was amazing was that many of the people that were involved in the boot camp, including the nurse, looked on, as if this were an act that happened routinely. Unfortunately, it was. But most youth had the decency to stay alive.

We spoke to a representative from Miami, Gus Bareiro. We found him to be a decent, caring man. He listened and promised to act. He did act, but did not quite understand the criminal mindset of our state institutions. First, we spoke to him concerning the closure of all boot camps. Second, we wanted an oversight committee that could go into any program unannounced to guard our kids from abuse. However, every time we feel we have scored a victory in assisting youth to get the help they need, we are faced with the system just changing names.

Yes, the boot camps have been closed. We notice, however, that one of the former boot camps is now called "The Sheriffs Training and Respect Program." The program has a commander and a captain just like the old boot camps. It seems that only the name has been changed to protect the guilty, and a boy passing through the camp is now dead. If we were only speaking of boot camps, the ministers producing the film may not be as shocked at Florida's juvenile system, but unfortunately abuse is rife against our youth.

In a program in south Florida a counselor knocked out a boy. He spoke against the counselor's mother. In a program in central Florida beatings behind the building happened daily. And when a mother saw bruises on her son she was warned not to call the abuse hotline. Her visiting rights were illegally taken. A young boy at Eckerd Youth Ranch was knocked unconscious when he left the school classroom. He asked the abuse hotline, and had a "battery on a LEO" charge placed on him. For this charge he was made an adult and at a young age, sent to adult prison, where he spent much of his time being raped. His life was ruined. And what of the oversight committees? The system jumped on the idea, and sent their people to supervise their programs. Nothing ever changes (except names). And our youth still die, or become emotionally destroyed at the hands of a system set up to rehabilitate them.

There are so many more things that could be spoken of that a book couldn't hold them. But suffice it to say, if we do not rise up to save our children we will continue losing them.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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