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Alcohol, fights common at treatment center, probe finds

ARCADIA, Fla. – Violent sexual predators at a privately operated state treatment center brew their own alcohol, wander around “staggering drunk” and often have brutal fights, investigators found.

The report by the Department of Children and Families’ inspector general portrays the Florida Civil Commitment Center as a largely lawless place where rapists and child molesters freely consume alcohol and brawl.

“All residents and staff interviewed admitted ‘everyone’ knows the residents make and consume homemade alcohol, called ‘buck,’ ” the report completed last month said. “Two residents during the investigative interview admitted being intoxicated at the time.”

The commitment center, in rural Arcadia, opened in 1999 following the passage of the Jimmy Ryce Act. The law, named after a 9-year-old Miami-Dade County boy slain by a child molester, allows the state to house sexually violent predators indefinitely for treatment after their prison sentences are completed, on the theory that they are mentally ill and unable to return to society.

The inspector general’s report is the second in recent months to criticize the management of the treatment center, which is run by a Pennsylvania company, Liberty Behavioral Health Corp., under contract with the DCF.

Robert Vaughn, associate director at the commitment center for Liberty, declined comment.

“We are firmly committed to maintaining a safe environment at the Florida Civil Commitment Center that is conducive to residents’ therapy,” said Tim Bottcher, a DCF spokesman in Tallahassee. “We welcomed the inspector general’s recommendations and, in fact, implemented them before the final report was issued.”

The investigation followed another report in September that detailed widespread incompetence and corruption.

The treatment center’s executive director, Rick Harry, told investigators his staff confiscated eight to 10 gallons of home-brew from residents’ housing units during a campus search Feb. 9.

The report also says that a staff member flushed cocaine down the toilet, rather than call the police to investigate drug charges.

And investigators criticized the staff for failing to secure a crime scene after one resident stabbed another resident 12 times.


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