Teen Killed in Altercation Within Juvenile Detention Facility: Who’s to Blame?

On the evening of August 28, 2015, a Miami-Dade juvenile was found wandering the streets of the city. Three days later, he was dead. The cause? Injuries apparently sustained during the breakout of a severe altercation between the residents of the facility — injuries that may have been preventable depending upon the specific facts of the incident in question.

In considering the following story out of Miami-Dade County, it is important to keep in mind that negligent oversight is a problem that can happen anywhere – including one of the several juvenile detention centers located here in Sarasota. In fact, juvenile centers across the state are facing increased scrutiny, as private facility contractor Youth Services International was recently forced to terminate its contract amid a Department of Justice investigation.

As practitioners of juvenile law, our team is dedicated to ensuring proper compliance with the law from the original arrest to subsequent incarceration, if necessary. As always, if you are facing a difficult situation with your child, or have suspicions as to the safety of your child within a local Manatee and/or Sarasota County facility, be sure to contact our office immediately.

Details of the Incident at the Miami-Dade Facility

The minor, who we’ll refer to as E.R., had spent his life in foster care – shuffled from one home to the next. Originally from Haiti, E.R. traveled to South Florida with his father, who thereafter abandoned him, rendering him a ward of the state.

After several minor run-ins with the law, the young boy was issued a judicial warning by a Miami Juvenile Court judge following an arrest for trespassing. Earlier in 2015, E.R. was transferred to a juvenile facility (labeled as a “moderate risk”) after exhibiting aggression toward a corrections officer. In August, he was placed back with his foster family and ran away two days later.

It was at this point that E.R. found himself embroiled in the midst of a fight between 15-20 offenders housed in the facility. According to documentation, E.R. immediately complained of soreness to his body, which was apparently dismissed by medical personnel.

The following day, E.R. began vomiting and was finally transferred to the Emergency Department by a corrections nurse “as a precaution.” Shortly after the transfer, E.R. died in the care of medical personnel at a local hospital, making this the second suspicious death in the facility since 2003 and the second death within a juvenile facility statewide since February of this year.

Liability or Accident?

Employees and staff members of juvenile detention centers are required to monitor and supervise the residents to ensure all children are provided a safe environment while enduring their sentence. While these institutions are meant to punish, they are also not designed to inflict the same punitive experience as the adult facilities – and for good reason.

Oftentimes, the inmates of a juvenile detention facility are incarcerated for minor crimes, including misdemeanor petty theft, truancy, or a similar non-violent offense. Nonetheless, incidents like that described herein are not uncommon and are becoming increasingly frequent in Florida.

It is, of course, too soon to determine any liability or culpability in the above-described incident. However, under general principles of negligence and parens patriae, the supervisors and correctional officers involved in the fatal altercation could face liability if the facts suggest they failed to render proper aid on time, failed to mitigate the fight, or otherwise departed from their duties of reasonable care and concern for the children left in their care.

Contact a Respected Sarasota Juvenile Attorney Today!

If you are facing a difficult situation or recent criminal charge, please do not hesitate to contact the Fowler Law Group today: (941) 900-3100.

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