Firm running Jacksonville juvenile facility has history of escapes
Three teens previously escaped from Jacksonville Youth Academy in June 2017
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Jacksonville police search for the last of four teens who broke free from a juvenile detention facility over the weekend, the News4Jax I-TEAM found this is not the first escape from that facility or several others in the area operated by the same company.
Tajah Bing, Davionne Baldwin, Tyjuan Monroe and Marcus Ledbetter are suspected of staging a fight inside their dorm Saturday to create the diversion for the escape. Once staff intervened, the teens turned on them and in the confusion left the facility and commandeered a staffer’s vehicle.
Baldwin surrendered the next day and Monroe’s mother turned him in. Ledbetter was taken into custody after he was seen walking along Lane Avenue. Bing, 16, who’s charged with lewd and lascivious behavior with a victim younger than 12, remained on the run Tuesday.
The Jacksonville Youth Academy was the site of a previous escape in June 2017. In that case, three teens overpowered the facility’s staffers, swiped a set of keys and took off. The trio was back in custody a week later.
TrueCore Behavioral, a private company formerly known as G4S Youth Services, was hired by the Department of Juvenile Justice to run 27 of the state’s juvenile justice programs, including the Jacksonville Youth Academy and Hastings Youth Academy in St. Johns County.
Incidentally, the Hastings facility had at least two escapes in 2017. Those included one which two teens scaled a security fence, and another in which four teens broke loose after one of them punched a 77-year-old guard, the only staffer present in that dorm at the time of the escape.
The Department of Juvenile Justice’s Office of Inspector General opened an investigation into a complaint stemming from that escape. The report produced in response found that allegations of improper supervision were “not sustained.”
A spokesperson for the department said its contractors, including TrueCore Behavioral, are required to have at least one staff member for every eight juveniles during daytime and one staffer for every dozen juveniles at night.
In response to questions from the I-TEAM, a spokesperson for TrueCore released a statement saying the safety of the public and teens at its facilities remain the company’s "top priorities."
"Numerous improvements have been made since the unfortunate incidents two years ago including improvements in surveillance equipment at Hastings, and fencing and staffing at both Hastings and Jacksonville. We continue to review our policies and procedures at the facility to help avoid any future incidents," the spokesperson said.
Jacksonville Youth Academy is a non-secure residential commitment program for boys ages 14 to 18. The state said these facilities are intended for minors who are required by a judge to stay under the supervision of the state for extended time.
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