Stories & Grievances
Martin Lee Anderson, 14 Years Old, Dies After Two Hours at a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Facility, or Boot Camp
When will our government close down teen boot camps and provide kids the support and compassion they need? Kids are dying and/or being maimed for life in these facilities. There is another way, and we all must find it. Betsy Combier
FDLE Investigates Death of Martin Lee Anderson
January 10, 2006
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting an inquiry into the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson at the request of the Bay County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Juvenile Justice. FDLE is responsible for determining the facts and circumstances surrounding the death. The Bay County Sheriff's Department and the Department of Juvenile Justice are cooperating fully. The autopsy conducted by the Bay County Medical Examiner has ruled out trauma or injury as the cause of death. The Medical Examiner's Office is awaiting toxicology results. The Honorable Steve Meadows, Office of the State Attorney, will review the facts and circumstances surrounding Anderson's death once the FDLE inquiry is complete.
Anderson was committed to a Department of Juvenile Justice facility on Jan. 4 by court order. The Department of Juvenile Justice facility remanded Anderson to the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp facility early Thursday morning. He was at the facility for approximately two hours before being transported by emergency medical services. He was taken from the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp facility on Thursday, Jan. 5, to Bay County Medical Center. Anderson was later transported by air ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. On Jan. 6, Anderson passed away.
As we do in all of our investigations, FDLE will conduct this investigation fairly and thoroughly. We offer our condolences to this young man's family for their tragic loss.
For more information, contact:
Public Information Officer
FDLE - Pensacola
Tape shows teen restrained at boot camp before dying
PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) -- Authorities released a video tape Friday showing guards restraining a boy at a juvenile detention boot camp just hours before he died.
The parents of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson believe the footage, from a boot camp security camera, will show that guards beat their son to death. They were viewing the 1-hour, 20-minute tape at their lawyer's office in Tallahassee as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made it public.
Two legislators who have seen the tape said Anderson was brutally beaten and kicked before he died January 6. They described an out-of-control situation, with guards punching and choking Anderson even as he went limp.
Anderson's family alleges he was beaten by guards on his first day at the boot camp. A medical examiner determined this week that the teen died from a blood disorder -- not from any injuries suffered in a beating.
News organizations had sued for the tape to be made public. The FDLE planned to release it when its investigation was complete, but said Friday it changed plans "due to compelling public interest and speculation as to its contents."
"The viewing of this will result in many questions, concerns and accusations," said Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen.
Anderson entered the camp January 5 because of a probation violation. He complained of breathing difficulties and collapsed during exercises that were part of the entry process. He died the next day at a Pensacola hospital.
The county sheriff's office, which runs the camp, said Anderson was restrained after he became uncooperative.
County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Siebert said the boy's body had some bruises and abrasions, but he attributed them to attempts to resuscitate the youth.
Siebert said Anderson suffered internal bleeding because he had sickle cell trait, a disorder that caused his red blood cells to change shape and produce "a whole cascade of events" that led to hemorrhaging.
"It was a natural death," he said.
Anderson family attorney Benjamin Crump said he was skeptical of the autopsy results and expressed doubt that the sickle cell trait, if it existed, could cause such extensive damage to the teenager's internal organs.
The Justice Department announced Thursday it would investigate the case, along with the FBI. Federal officials planned to focus on whether camp guards violated Anderson's rights through use of excessive force or indifference to serious medical need.
Anderson was arrested in June for stealing his grandmother's Jeep Cherokee and sent to the boot camp for violating his probation by trespassing at a school.
The boot camp concept for juveniles began in Florida in 1993, and five camps now house about 600 boys ages 14 to 18.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Teen Boot Camps: Behavior Modification or Torture Centers?
When will this stop? When will our city, county, and government officials open their eyes to see what is going on with these kids? When will people realize this is wrong and that it is not the way to help anyone, let alone children and teens? When will something happen that will shake the right people up? This is dispicable and disgusting, and it continues to go on and on. Parents, wake up and take care of your kids.
Teen dies 3 hours after being admitted to military-style lockup. Lawmaker demands shutdown.
By Carol Marbin Miller and Mary Ellen Klas
cmarbin@MiamiHerald.co, Miami Herald, January 11, 2006
PANAMA CITY - The sudden death of an apparently healthy Panama City teen at a military-style youth lockup prompted a prominent South Florida lawmaker to demand Tuesday that the controversial programs be shut down, while state officials say they will reexamine the policies that allow the use of physical force against children in state care.
Martin Lee Anderson, 14, who stopped breathing less than three hours after being admitted to the Bay County Sheriff's boot camp last week, is the most recent Florida child to die in the custody of state youth corrections officials under questionable circumstances.
'These places are terrible, they have been shown to be unsuccessful, and they should be shut down,' said state Rep. Gustavo 'Gus' Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican who chairs the House Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, and heads a separate committee that is investigating the treatment of youth in state care. ``I think they should be eliminated.'
The Department of Juvenile Justice, which contracts with counties to operate the boot camps, will review all the sheriff's offices' policies, said Cynthia Lorenzo, a DJJ spokeswoman in Tallahassee. Lorenzo declined to discuss the case.
Said Rep. Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat also on the oversight committee: ``How is it that we are incapable of simply preserving the lives we are entrusted with?'
The initial report of the Bay County Medical Examiner suggests Martin did not die from injury or physical trauma. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating the incident, which was captured on the camp's security cameras.
Martin's parents, Robert Anderson and Gina Jones, dispute the medical examiner's findings. They believe their son was restrained, pushed up against a wall and beaten by drill instructors until he stopped breathing. On Tuesday, they filed documents indicating they intend to sue the state and Bay County officials for negligence.
'They shouldn't get away with this,' Jones said. ``They threw him around like a little rag doll.'
Martin, six-foot-one and 140 pounds, was a healthy, rangy teen who played basketball for his middle school team, Jones said.
She and Anderson traveled from Panama City to Pensacola to be with their son Thursday as he was being transported to the trauma ward at Sacred Heart Hospital.
As they stood Friday morning over the limp body of their son, linked to life by the artificial breath of a respirator, they decided to let him go.
'The nurse said his kidneys and liver were gone,' recalled Anderson, Martin's father. ``I didn't want to do it but, just looking at him, lying on that bed, he was doing nothing but suffering.'
Anderson remembers the time: 1:42 a.m. Jones remembers her last look at her son: His nose was swollen, his lip cut, his cheek scraped. Blood had dripped from his nose to his ears and dried, she said.
Martin had been on a respirator since sometime between 9 and 10 a.m. the day before. He was on life support for 15 hours. He had been at the boot camp less than three, booked for violating his probation during a grand-theft case. 'He didn't even get a chance to eat lunch,' Jones said.
At the center of the controversy are the state's six juvenile justice boot camps, all run by county sheriff's offices. The closest to South Florida are in Collier and Martin counties. Social scientists say the military camps simply don't work, failing to prevent youth from committing new crimes. Still, critics say state sheriffs have used their political muscle to keep the camps running.
And while DJJ administrators have launched many reforms in recent years to better protect children, the six boot camps were exempted from the reforms under pressure from sheriffs.
In July 2004, Gov. Jeb Bush and newly appointed DJJ Secretary Anthony Schembri announced an overhaul of the agency's policies on physical restraints. The result, the Youth Rights Policy, banned several types of restraints.
'You can't teach compassion by modeling callousness,' Schembri said at the time.
The policy banned the use of several aggressive tactics such as shoulder locks, wristlocks and restraint chairs, which had been linked to injuries among detained youths. Months earlier, a former DJJ secretary had forbidden the use of the so-called hammerlock, which had caused a spate of broken arms.
In 2000, a willowy, 66-pound 12-year-old boy named Michael Wiltsie died after being placed in a 'full-body restraint' by a counselor at a now-closed Eckerd wilderness camp in Ocala. Like Martin, the youngster had complained to counselors that he could not breathe, a state death review said.
But DJJ officials exempted boot camps from the new regulations, Barreiro told The Miami Herald, as sheriffs successfully argued they needed more latitude than traditional programs when dealing with difficult youth. Barreiro, who has operated youth programs, calls the exemption a mistake.
The boot camps 'should abide by the same procedures,' he said. The reforms, he said, 'were written for the safety of the kids, after there were dire consequences' from earlier restraints.
A darling of law enforcement agencies, boot camps came into vogue a decade or so ago as youth corrections officials were searching for new ways to stanch a wave of violent juvenile crime.
Social scientists researched the model rigorously, professors say, and studies concluded almost uniformly that paramilitary youth programs were not effective in deterring crime.
DJJ's records show about 62 percent of the youth who graduate from one of the state's boot camps are arrested again for some type of offense -- a recidivism rate experts call very high. Other programs for moderate-risk kids, such as wilderness camps, also have high re-arrest rates, but some, such as halfway houses, are much lower.
'Boot camps don't work,' said Aaron McNeese, dean of the Florida State University College of Social Work, which has done some of the research.
Most boot camps were modeled after an earlier program called Scared Straight, which arranged for troubled kids to experience life within adult jails or prisons, said Frank Orlando, a 21-year Broward circuit judge who served more than a decade in juvenile court. The Scared Straight programs were mostly discontinued after a host of abuses were reported.
'There is no way to scare or frighten or work a child at those boot camps' into changing their behavior, Orlando said. Such tactics, he added, might end up ``killing him -- or making him a more dangerous person.'
'The only reform for boot camps as they are operated in Florida right now is to eliminate them,' added Orlando, who is director of the Center for the Study of Youth Policy at the Nova Southeastern University Law Center in Davie.
Still, said Orlando and McNeese, boot camps persist in Florida and elsewhere across the country because powerful law enforcement groups insist than can be effective in curbing youth crime.
'Just because it doesn't work doesn't mean people are not going to do it,' McNeese said. ``There is a lot of investment in those programs -- political investment as well as financial -- and people have a stake in somebody sooner or later saying it's a great program.'
When a child dies, discipline has failed
OUR OPINION: LEGISLATURE SHOULD PULL FINANCIAL PLUG ON BOOT CAMPS
EDITORIAL: Miami Herald, January 13, 2006
There can be no good reason why a healthy, athletic 14-year-old boy should enter a state-sponsored boot camp and end up on a stretcher fighting for his life three hours later. Yet that happened to Martin Lee Anderson of Panama City, who died hours after entering the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp last week.
State officials, who promised reforms after boot-camp violence two years ago, now say the state will review its policy of allowing physical force at the camps. That's not enough. The state has tried reforms and failed. The camps should be closed down altogether, as state Rep. Gustavo 'Gus' Barriero, R-Miami, is suggesting.
Detailed information about exactly what caused Martin's death awaits completion of an autopsy. But what is known thus far is all too familiar and highly disturbing. Rep. Barriero said the boy had bruises on his face and that his nose may have been broken. Unlike at state-operated juvenile-detention facilities, the Department of Juvenile Detention allows boot camps to use physical force against the juveniles in custody. The idea of the boot camps -- there are six in Florida -- is to rehabilitate the youngsters with a 'tough love' program of physical exercise and strict discipline. The problem, however, is that the boot camps are almost all 'tough' and very little 'love.' The results are predictable. Many children leave the facilities bitter and angry, and with a keener sense of the power of physical confrontation.
Some people think that beating up on children can produce good results. They believe that boot camps are just an organized extention of the concept, 'Spare the rod; Spoil the child.' They are wrong. These camps have mastered the art of bullying, intimidating and badgering children into submission. They neglect to mentor, teach and counsel their charges.
Florida doesn't need camps that demean children and break their spirit when there are dozens of other programs, such as Outward Bound and Vision Quest to name just two, that build pride and self-esteem in children through coaching, teamwork, respect and positive reinforcement.
'Tough love' didn't work for girls, either. Florida shut down its only boot camp for girls two year ago in Polk County after reports of unacceptably high levels of recidivism among those who finished the program.
DJJ's own records show a 62 percent recidivism rate for boot-camp boys. Social science experts who have studied the camps say flat-out that they don't work. Scaring and frightening children doesn't change their behavior. State lawmakers should pull the financial plug on boot camps. They mustn't wait for another child to die while being "scared straight.'
Statement of Ken Key
Posted on Sat, Jan. 07, 2006
Hours after entering camp, Panhandle 14-year-old dies
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
Before 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson was locked up in a military-style youth camp in the Florida Panhandle this week, he told his mother he would 'do what I've got to do' and come home a changed man.
Martin never returned.
A few hours after Martin was booked into the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp in Panama City on Thursday, officers used 'force' when they said he became 'uncooperative.' Martin stopped breathing and was pronounced dead at about 1:30 a.m. Friday at a Pensacola hospital.
'My son walked in there, and they carried him out in a black bag,' said Martin's mother, 36-year-old Gina Jones, of Panama City. ``It's wrong.'
Martin's death, the most recent involving a youth in the custody of Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice, is under investigation by the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which ran the boot camp under contract with DJJ, as well as DJJ and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The FDLE has taken a copy of a videotape that shows what happened to Martin in his final minutes at the camp, said Ruth Sasser, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office.
'The Legislature is sick and tired of hearing about kids who go into the [DJJ] system and don't make it out alive,' said state Rep. Gus Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican who is chairman of a House committee that oversees youth corrections programs. ``Every kid who goes into the system should be able to come out.'
In a prepared statement, DJJ Secretary Anthony Schembri expressed sympathy Friday for Martin's family.
'I am deeply saddened by the death of Martin Lee Anderson,' Schembri said. ``Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. . . . On behalf of the entire Department of Juvenile Justice, our thoughts and prayers are with Martin's family during this difficult time.'
Schembri added he has asked the DJJ inspector general to review policies and procedures related to the care of youth in boot camps.
Martin entered the boot camp Thursday along with 10 other boys to be part of his ``platoon.'
During a physical assessment that is part of each admission, Martin became 'uncooperative' with his drill instructors, said Bay Sheriff's spokeswoman Ruth Sasser, who declined to specify whether Martin refused to follow orders or became physically aggressive. Sources familiar with the investigation told The Miami Herald Martin had become 'belligerent' during his assessment and had cursed at the officers.
Sasser could not specify what type of restraint staffers used; several restraint techniques have been banned by DJJ officials in recent years following reports of injuries to youth -- particularly broken arms -- after the so-called ``take downs.'
'These are common techniques,' Sasser said. ``Each drill instructor is trained in their use. This is something we have done for 12 years.'
Shortly after he was restrained, Martin began complaining that he was having trouble breathing, Sasser said. A nurse examined the teen and decided to call emergency workers immediately. By the time paramedics arrived four minutes later, Sasser added, Martin had stopped breathing.
BLED TO DEATH
A source at DJJ who asked for anonymity said paramedics attempting to insert a breathing tube may have accidentally punctured Martin's windpipe. Sources say DJJ officials were told Martin bled to death.
Citing federal medical privacy laws, Donna Sercey, nurse supervisor at Bay Medical, which provides medical service in Panama City and first treated the youth, declined to discuss the case.
Sasser said the sheriff's office was told by the medical examiner that Martin did not die from any kind of beating. 'His death was not due to trauma,' Sasser said. ``There was no bruising or physical trauma.'
Martin's mother said she was told by an officer at the boot camp that Martin was restrained because he refused to run after being ordered. Jones said the officer told her Martin was pushed against a wall during the restraint.
'Martin told them he couldn't run, and they said they had to counsel him,' Jones said. ``I didn't know that counseling meant taking him and throwing him against the wall.'
Fla. Video Said to Show Boot Camp Beating
By BRENT KALLESTAD, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 8 minutes ago
A videotape shows guards brutally beating a boy at a military-style boot camp for juvenile delinquents not long before the teenager died, two lawmakers said Thursday.
Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died Jan. 6 at a Pensacola hospital, a day after he entered the camp because of an arrest for theft.
Anderson complained of breathing difficulties and collapsed during exercises that were part of the entry process at the camp, which was run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities have said he had to be restrained when he became uncooperative during the workout.
State Rep. Gus Barreiro, a Republican, called the videotape "horrific," saying he had "never seen any kid being brutalized ... the way I saw this young man being brutalized."
"Even towards the end of the videotape, where you could just see there was pretty much nothing left of Martin, they came out with a couple cups of water and splashed him in the face," he said. "When you see stuff like that, you want to go through the TV and say, 'Enough is enough. Please stop hitting this kid.'"
Bay County authorities and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have refused to make the tape public, but Barreiro and state Rep. Dan Gelber, a Democrat who also viewed the videotape, said it would be released soon.
"I don't think there's any question there was excessive force," Gelber said. "This is a relatively small kid with a half a dozen of pretty strong men, and he seemed to be phasing in and out of consciousness."
Sheriff Frank McKeithen issued a statement accusing Barreiro and Gelber of overreacting with "irresponsible, premature and incorrect statements" that "add fuel to an already volatile situation."
The contents of the tape were first reported by The Miami Herald.
Gov. Jeb Bush, who was in Orlando, said that although he had not seen the tape, several of his aides had and he was aware of the contents. "Absolutely we're concerned," he said.
Anderson's family said it plans to sue Bay County and the state Department of Juvenile Justice, which oversees boot camp programs. The department gave the camp a good review in June 2004.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
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