Saturday, May 26, 2007

Juvenile justice staff fired over boy's injury

April 14,2007

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Walt McNeil Friday fired the acting superintendent and a juvenile justice officer at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna after an investigation into abuse of a youth.

McNeil said the action was a call for a "change of culture" at the school.

"There are systemic operational problems at our Dozier facility that span the chain of command from top to bottom," said McNeil.

The incident occurred Feb. 11. Justin Caldwell, an 18-year-old at the school, is charged as an adult with battery in an attack an officer at Dozier School that day.

Later that day, McNeil said in an unrelated incident, Caldwell accused juvenile justice residential officer Alvin Speights of choking him, causing him to hit his head on a table that knocked him unconscious. That incident was caught on a security camera, but McNeil said the faces of other youths not involved had to be obscured before it could be released to the media. The tape was given to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and could be released early next week, he said.

Last year, DJJ came under fire for delaying release of footage of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson being beaten by guards at the Bay County juvenile boot camp. After being sued by the media, the department eventually released the tape. Anderson died the day after the incident in Bay County and eight employees of the boot camp have pleaded innocent to charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child.

In the Marianna case, Caldwell has been charged as an adult with battery on staff and is being held in the Jackson County Jail. He had been at Dozier for two years on larceny charges. Speights was in the process of being fired Friday and charges against him are pending in the ongoing investigation, McNeil said.

Also, in response to the investigation, John Tallon, regional residential services administrator and acting Dozier superintendent, was fired Thursday.

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