Riots erupts at Florida juvenile detention center over Cup O'Noodles
‘I watched them break windows. I watched them jump on golf carts and ride around and holler,’ said the Polk County sheriff. Photograph: Charles O’Rear/Corbis
Dozens of teenage inmates destroyed a Florida detention centre in a riot over three packets of noodle soup.
About 150 police and law enforcement officers were called to the privately run Avon Park Youth Academy near Frostproof on Saturday night when fighting broke out following a basketball game.
According to Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, the losers of two groups of boys who were playing reneged on a bet to pay the winners in Cup O’Noodles soup, sparking the violence.
“There was a group of kids from Orlando and a group from St Petersburg, and they had bet three packages of noodles over the game. The Orlando team won, the St Pete team wouldn’t pay up,” Judd told reporters.
“I watched them break windows. I watched them jump on golf carts and ride around and holler and yell at law enforcement.”
In emergency calls for help, staff said that the rioting juveniles quickly overwhelmed the 21 on-duty employees of G4S, the private company contracted by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to run the facility that houses 138 inmates aged 16 to 19.
During the melee, 18 of 20 buildings were destroyed and seven juveniles were injured, the most seriously with a broken leg. Other injuries consisted of bruises, lower back pain, lacerations, and one concussion, Judd said.
Officers from the Polk County and Highland County sheriff’s departments, many in riot gear and assisted by employees of other agencies including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and fire crews, raced to the facility to restore order.
Some juveniles set fire to an office, destroying records, with overall damage running to “several thousand dollars,” according to DJJ officials.
Judd said 64 teenagers were taken to the Polk County jail, where they remained separate from adult inmates, with the rest remaining at Avon Park. None of the youths escaped during the riot and all are accounted for, he added.
The sheriff said he expected the ringleaders and participants to be charged with multiple felonies after an investigation. Detectives will be hampered by a lack of video footage because the facility has no security cameras.
Under the terms of their contract, G4S employees are not allowed to carry pepper spray or other restraining devices, but Meghan Speakes, a DJJ spokeswoman, said the Avon Park riot might lead to policy changes.
“Once law enforcement officials have completed their investigation, DJJ will conduct a thorough internal review to enhance safeguards that provide for the safety of youth and staff in Florida’s juvenile justice facilities,” she said in a statement.
Avon Park is a low security facility with 144 beds for male offenders deemed to be a “moderate risk” to public safety, according to the department’s website. The average length of stay is nine to 12 months, during which inmates receive a general education with a view to finding employment on their release.
via Riots erupts at Florida juvenile detention center over Cup O’Noodles