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Changes made at girls institute

Leaders and procedures were altered after two inmates' arms were broken while being restrained.

Associated Press
Published September 26, 2003

WEST PALM BEACH - Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary W.G. "Bill" Bankhead reviewed changes made at the troubled Florida Institute for Girls on Thursday, two months after two teenage inmates suffered broken arms while being restrained.

The institute, which houses 79 girls, has revamped its leadership and switched to a system that rewards inmates for good behavior. Monthly training sessions also were added for all employees, covering topics such as how to control outbursts verbally, rather than using physical restraints like those that caused the girls' injuries.

Bankhead said new admissions to the facility remain on hold and that the restraint technique that resulted in injury has been suspended.

"We think we made some good first steps," Bankhead said.

The Florida Institute for Girls opened in April 2000 and was praised as an innovative way to treat the state's most troubled and violent female offenders between the ages of 13 and 21. National consultants helped design the treatment programs at the high-security center, which was the third of its kind in the country.

But staff members have been accused in recent months of having inappropriate sexual contact with inmates and requiring excessively long stays in isolation units.

In June, the Palm Beach state attorney announced a grand jury investigation into the allegations.

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