Teen Advocates USA

all children have the right to constitutional and statutory protections

Representative Miller Statement on Justice Department Announcement on Martin Lee Anderson Case 

WASHINGTON, DC -- February 16, 2006 -- Representative George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education Committee, issued the following statement today on the U.S. Justice Department’s announcement that it will investigate the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson at a Florida boot camp:

“The U.S. Justice Department today agreed to investigate the death of a 14-year-old boy at a boot camp in Florida. I am extremely encouraged by this decision. According to media reports, Martin Lee Anderson was beaten to death by guards at the boot camp, a nightmare that was captured on videotape. There is nothing more horrifying than the death of a child in the hands of the very people who are entrusted to help him.

“Today, hundreds of boot camps – both public and private – operate nationwide. The Bay County, Florida, Sheriff’s Department facility where Anderson died was publicly managed and operated, and it was licensed by the state. Hundreds of privately-run boot camps – sometimes called ‘behavior modification facilities’ – are not licensed or regulated at all, and a number of allegations of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse have been made against those programs by children and their parents. Deaths have also been reported. It is clear that where no licensing standards exist, they must be instituted; and where they are too weak, they must be strengthened. And no federal dollars should support facilities that fail to meet anything but the highest standards.

“This investigation should be the beginning of a serious, aggressive, and comprehensive effort by federal agencies and the Congress to make sure that children are totally safe when they are sent – either by the state or by their parents – to residential programs. No program should operate in the United States without meeting minimum standards, without regulations, or with poorly trained or abusive staff. Martin Lee Anderson’s death was a terrible tragedy. We must not allow his death to be in vain.”

Miller has requested a government investigation of residential treatment facilities. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to conduct that investigation.

Miller has also introduced legislation to help states create licensing standards for residential treatment programs. For more information on that legislation,
click here.

The Lonesome Death of Martin Lee Anderson
Blaming the black victim . . . again

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 5:50 pm

On the evening of Feruary 9, 1963, a socialite tobacco farmer named William Zantzinger struck Hattie Carroll with his cane when she didn’t bring his drink as fast as he wanted it. Carroll, who had been working the bar at the Baltimore hotel where Zantzinger was attending a ball, died the next day. An investigation into Carroll’s death concluded that Zantzinger’s cane had left no marks on her body. The 51-year-old died, reports say, due to her own hardened arteries and weak heart.

Hattie Carroll didn’t live in an era when beatings were routinely captured on videotape, but there were plenty of witnesses to attest that a drunk and disorderly Zantzinger had struck her before she collapsed. In order for her alleged assailant to mount a defense, another reason had to be invented for her death — something that could be traced back to a defect in her own body. Hattie Carroll had a bad heart — just as Martin Lee Anderson, the 14-year-old whose beating at a Florida juvenile boot camp was captured on video, had “sickle cell trait.” That’s what killed him, reported a medical examiner last week — 43 years and a week after Carroll’s killing — not the kicks and punches he got from guards at the facility.

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Bay County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Siebert's characterization of Martin Lee Anderson's death as the end result of a "cascade of events," implies inadvertency. It paints a fuzzy, rose-tinted picture of a tragic outcome that (in Dr. Siebert's view, apparently) no one could have foreseen or halted once the process started, and now we must accept this unfortunate accident with a tear and a sigh, and move on.
Accident or no accident?

If you see 6 or 7 vultures gathered in one place, at one time, doing one thing, you can be fairly certain what that activity is. They haven't convened by accident, and the outcome of their gathering won't be accidental. I offer this imperfect analogy with my sincere apology to vultures, who, after all, perform a useful and necessary function in the scheme of things. The same can't be said for teen boot camps.

The video shown here gives a candid view of boot camp activity: the goading, taunting, being marshaled about, and more. Those push-ups and track work aren't your typical before-breakfast jog around the block. This isn't granddad's aerobics. What happens in boot camp is very different, and has a very different purpose. And if you're a newly-arrived, lanky black kid who plays high school basketball and wears a fancy hairdo, you'd better watch your step. The vultures have plans for you. They're going to run you until you drop, or they just might drop you. Toward the end of the video, we see it happen. We see a 14-year-old's last conscious moments in this life.

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Complete Coverage and Video Here

Martin Lee Anderson: A life cut short
February, 2006



Law exempts camps from DCF probes
An exemption in Florida law allowed boot camps to investigate child abuse
claims without reporting them to the DCF.



Miami Herald

April 20, 2006

Martin Lee Anderson, 14, died after being beaten by guards at the Bay County Boot Camp on January 5. The boot camp is operated by the Bay County Sheriff's Department and overseen by Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Though a surveillance video played around the country shows guards punching, kneeing and choking Martin Lee Anderson before he stopped breathing at a Panama City boot camp, Florida child abuse investigators are not looking into whether the boy died from abuse or neglect.

That's because both child welfare and juvenile justice administrators are interpreting one sentence in state law as granting Florida's five juvenile boot camps an exemption to requirements that all suspected or alleged child abuse be reported to the Department of Children & Families' abuse hotline.

The boot camps are the only programs under contract with the Department of Juvenile Justice that are not required to report suspected abuse to DCF's hotline. They also are the only DJJ programs that are allowed to investigate abuse claims themselves.


Chelly Schembera, a retired Florida social service administrator with extensive child welfare, juvenile justice and inspector general experience during 27 years with DCF, called the exemption ``a very bad public policy.''

''This is a license to commit police brutality at will,'' she said.

Ray J. Thomlison, dean of the Schools of Social Work, Policy and Management at Florida International University, which has trained hundreds of DCF abuse investigators, called the exemption ``extraordinary.''

''I would not have expected them to be exempt from reporting child abuse. None of the other agencies are,'' he said. ``Obviously, they should be held to the same standards as the rest of the community.''

Spokesmen for both DCF and DJJ refused to discuss the issue of child-abuse reporting at the boot camps.

Cynthia Lorenzo, DJJ's spokeswoman, said it is DCF's responsibility to interpret state statutes and decide which abuse calls to accept for investigation.

''DCF may choose not to accept the calls,'' Lorenzo said. ``DCF makes the [decision] on what calls to accept and from whom.''

DCF spokesman Tim Bottcher said he could not render what he called an ''advisory opinion'' about state statutes, or interpret the meaning of a state law. ''Beyond that,'' Bottcher said, ``this is a matter of two investigations, law enforcement investigations. For those reasons, we decline to comment.''

A spokeswoman for the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which ran the now-shuttered boot camp in Panama City where Martin Anderson was sent, declined to comment about whether it reported any instances of abuse to DCF, though records obtained by The Miami Herald showed that the boot camp was reporting abuse allegations strictly to DJJ, not the child welfare agency.

Martin's death is being investigated by a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush, Mark Ober, the state attorney of Hillsborough County. The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office, based in Tallahassee, also are investigating whether boot camp guards violated the youth's civil rights.

Under Florida law, a variety of caregivers -- including foster parents, private school teachers, daycare centers, babysitters, relatives and group home operators -- can be held accountable for abusing or neglecting children.


But the statute adds: ``For the purpose of [DCF] investigative jurisdiction, this definition does not include law enforcement officers, or employees of municipal or county detention facilities or the Department of Corrections, while acting in an official capacity.''

DJJ's policy and procedures manual, called Quality Assurance, also requires all residential programs to ``immediately [report] first to the Florida Abuse Hotline and then second to the [DJJ] Office of Inspector General hotline. Law enforcement reports directly and only to the OIG Hotline.''

DJJ operates -- mostly under contract with private companies -- close to 125 residential corrections programs across the state, 26 of them in southern Florida. In southern Florida, only the Martin County Sheriff's Office's Sheriff's Training and Respect academy, or STAR, would be exempt from state child abuse reporting laws under DJJ's policy.

Still, the Martin boot camp -- which is expected to close in coming weeks due to budget shortfalls -- reports all allegations to the DCF abuse hotline, said Capt. Lloyd Jones, the camp's program director.

Jones acknowledges there has been ''some confusion'' over whether the camp is required to notify DCF of an abuse allegation. But, he added, the Sheriff's Office has opted to seek the additional monitoring a call to DCF affords.

''Our policy says here in Martin County we call DCF,'' Jones said. ''We wrote out our own policy.'' The camp also has posters throughout the facility, in both English and Spanish, telling youths how to reach the abuse line.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who runs a boot camp, said his staff also notifies both DCF and DJJ whenever an abuse allegation arises. ''We have both the DJJ and DCF hotline numbers posted prominently in the squad bays and hallway areas,'' Judd said. ``I am confident these children in our custody are looked after appropriately.''


Retired Miami-Dade Juvenile Judge Tom Petersen, who taught juvenile justice for 10 years at the University of Miami, said the abuse reporting exemption was designed specifically to shield police officers from child abuse allegations when they use force to arrest or subdue juvenile offenders.

''Clearly, the Legislature wasn't thinking about boot camps,'' said Petersen. ``They were thinking about a situation in which a police officer tackles a kid who's running away from a stolen car. It was not meant to cover a law enforcement officer acting as a child custodian at a boot camp.''

''This is a glib, self-serving definition,'' Petersen said, ``and the result of that glib, self-serving definition is the death of that young man.''

Students continue vigil at the Capitol

By Jennifer Jefferson

Early this morning, Sen. Steve Geller came to show his support for group of college students who spent the night outside Gov. Bush's office inside the Capitol.

"The issue you are here for is an important issue," Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, told the students. "You can't beat a kid to death and no one gets punished."

Every hour on the hour a spokesperson for the group of more than 30 stands and recites the demands set forth by the group who want to see justice served for Martin Lee Anderson, the 14-year-old Bay County teen who died after being beaten in a Bay County Boot Camp in Panama City. No charges have been filed so far in the case.

These include: a public apology; a change in venue from Bay County for any trial; release of the second autopsy report; arrest of the guards; a civil suit against the Bay County Sheriff's Office and FDLE; removal of Dr. Charles Siebert as medical examiner in Bay County and removal of the boot camp nurse.

"We need to see something happen," said Monique Gillum, vice-president-elect of the Florida A&M University Student Government Association. "We are serious about this. We aren't going anywhere."

Outside of the governor's office, there is corner stockpiled with doughnuts, water, other food and trash. Some students were sitting in chairs, but most were seated along the perimeter of the floor with their legs crossed. There are rules to the sit-in: no loud talking and no use of cell phones, except for text messaging.

"This is a place of business," FAMU SGA President Ramon Alexander said.

Gabe Pendas, FSU's Senate president, noted: "The governor didn't wait for a thorough investigation when he took action on the Terry Schiavo case. Is Martin Lee Anderson not as important as Terry Schiavo."

"This is not only for Martin, but for all the Martin Lee Andersons to come, Gillum said.

The students said they planned to meet with Anderson's family at 4 p.m.

Students from FAMU, FSU and Tallahassee Community College also have planned a major march from the Civic Center to the Capitol on Friday to voice their united concerns on what they say is too much silence and too little action on the Anderson investigation.

For updates on this issue, please go to www.tallahassee.com and read more about this in tomorrow's Tallahassee Democrat.

Originally published April 20, 2006


  Florida closes youth boot camps
  Lawmakers prompted by 14-year-old's death

Wednesday, April 26, 2006; Posted: 5:37 p.m. EDT (21:37 GMT)

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- Florida lawmakers agreed Wednesday to shut down the state's juvenile boot camps after the death of a 14-year-old boy who had been kicked and punched by guards.

The move, agreed to by House and Senate negotiators, is part of a state budget agreement that still requires both chambers' approval.

Under the deal, Florida's four remaining boot camps would be replaced with a new, less militaristic program. The state would pump an additional $32.6 million into juvenile justice programs, increasing total spending to $699.5 million.

"Unfortunately it has taken the death of a young man to get to this point," said Republican Rep. Gus Barreiro, chairman of the House Juvenile Justice Appropriations Committee.

The move was prompted by the death January 6 of Martin Lee Anderson, who was roughed up in a videotaped scuffle at a Panama City boot camp. The camp was shut down after the boy's death, which remains under investigation and has drawn protests from civil rights leaders.

"Now there won't be any more children being abused while in the custody of the state," said attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Anderson's parents in a lawsuit against the state and the sheriff's office that ran the camp. "It is something good to have a legacy knowing that his death wasn't in vain."

Florida had nine juvenile boot camps at the height of the program but is now down to four, with about 130 offenders in all. The teenagers are sent there for mid-level crimes such as burglary and drugs, and usually stay for four to six months.

Guards operate like drill sergeants, typically waking up the teenagers at 5 a.m. for calisthenics, yelling in their faces, and using push-ups and running as punishment for breaking the rules.

Gov. Jeb Bush, who had been a strong supporter of the boot camps, has said he supports the new measures, which would take effect July 1.

The new juvenile programs, like the boot camps, would be run by sheriffs, but they would be closely monitored by the state. The programs would emphasize self-esteem and prohibit physical intervention between guards and youngsters. Under the old system, guards were legally allowed to physically intervene for disciplinary purposes.

A medical examiner concluded Anderson died of natural causes -- a blood disorder. But the boy's family and others disputed that, and the body was exhumed for a second autopsy. The results have not been released, but the office of a special prosecutor has said Anderson did not die of natural causes.

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Private Program Related Deaths
March 15, 2007

Crist Wants $5 Million For Boot Camp Death Settlement

PANAMA CITY, FLA---Saying it was the "right thing to do", Florida Gov. Charlie Crist asked state legislators Wednesday to authorize a $5 million settlement to the parents of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson who died of suffocation at a Bay County boot camp last January, allegedly at the hands of sheriff's officers.

Crist told the legislators that it was "real important that the state do the right thing and I think the right thing to do is honor their more than reasonable request. Justice delayed is justice denied".
This surveillance video shows what happened just before and after the boot camp beating of 14 year old Martin Lee Anderson, who died the next day.

[NY Times - 04-21-06] TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- About 1,500 students marched with the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on Friday to protest how the state has handled the death of a black teenager who was punched and kicked by guards at
a juvenile detention boot camp.

M A R T I N  L E E  A N D E R S O N
      January 15, 1991 – January 6, 2006

The Long Road to Justice for Martin Lee Anderson
I N  M E M O R I A M
Martin didn't deserve this right here.  At all.  I couldn't even watch the whole tape. 
Me as a mom,  I knew my baby was in pain and I am in pain just watching his pain".

Gina Jones, mother of Martin Lee Anderson
February 17, 2006

Trial has making of epic battle
Students Protest Boot Camp Death
Death sparks change to juvenile justice system

Within hours of entering a Bay County juvenile boot camp Martin Lee Anderson was restrained, kneed and hit by guards. He died the next day.   Guards claimed that Anderson was uncooperative and refused to participate in exercises that were part of the camp’s intake processes. But the altercation was caught on videotape and it sparked an investigation into Anderson’s untimely death.

The first autopsy found that he died from sickle cell anemia, a usually benign blood disorder. But just a day after the medical examiner found Anderson died from natural causes, the videotape of the incident was released. A week later, the boot camp was closed and all employees involved in the investigation were placed on administrative leave.

A few weeks later, Anderson’s body was exhumed for a second autopsy that concluded his death was not due to natural causes, rather, he died from suffocation. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the guards’ hands blocked the boy’s mouth and the forced inhalation of ammonia fumes caused his vocal chords to spasm. Guards said they used ammonia capsules five times on Anderson in order to get him to cooperate.

A special prosecutor was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to look into allegations of misconduct because the state attorney for Bay County asked to be removed from the case citing close ties to law enforcement.

On November 28, 2006, nearly eleven months after Anderson’s death, the special prosecutor announced that 7 ex-guards and a nurse have been charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with the boy’s death. The accused face up to 30 years in prison. The manslaughter charge is considered aggravated because the victim was under 18 years old.

Anderson’s death is a tragedy, but something good has come of it. Governor Bush signed into legislation, with Anderson’s parents watching, the Martin Lee Anderson Act which replaces boot camps with juvenile facilities that focus more on education and counseling than discipline and punishment.

The accused will have to answer criminal charges as well as defend themselves in a 40 million dollar civil lawsuit filed by Anderson’s parents on their son’s behalf.

In a civilized society based on the rule of law, we live in a delicate balance between obeying those whose job it is to enforce the laws, and policing the police to make certain they do not abuse their special positions of authority.

We see this same scenario unfold time and time again. There is a tension between the lawful use of force to do one’s job and the abuse of force to intimidate and coerce. Presently, we are watching this story unfold in connection with the shooting death of a New York groom, shot 51 times by undercover police officers at 4:00 a.m. in Queens on the morning of his wedding. We are waiting to learn whether police abused their power or whether their actions were lawful. Just a few years ago, we watched the videotaped beating of Rodney King by the L.A.P.D. which raised serious questions of police brutality.

Rather than become cynical about law enforcement, and treat it with disrespect, we must continue to learn from both officers and citizens how to police properly. We need the police to serve and protect us, and we need to train and treat our police in a way that best supports them in their life threatening duties.

As sad as it is that Martin Lee Anderson died at 14 years old, it looks as if Florida is taking his death seriously. Anderson’s case is being used to improve the juvenile justice system, and to charge those whose role it is to protect the youth they are supposed to guard.


If the legislators approve the request, the settlement would be among the largest ever paid in similar cases in Florida such as to wrongly imprisoned death row inmates. The family sued the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Bay County Sheriff's office for $40 million but their attorney, Benjamin Crump, told Crist in a letter than a $10 million payment would be a fair resolution with the state paying half and Bay County paying the remainder.

"Although we can never replace this young life, I am determined to justly compensate the family for their loss," Crist told the legislators. He has said that he will encourage Bay County official to match the state's $5 million settlement.

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