Florida Juvenile Justice said it Would Weed out Bad Hires. How Did This Guy Slip Through?

BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER
cmarbin@miamiherald.com
DECEMBER 16, 2017

It took just two months for Chris W. Jeffries to get into trouble at his new job as a counselor for delinquent teens with drug or behavior problems. A week ago, police charged him with child abuse on allegations that he slugged a 16-year-old boy in the jaw at the Pembroke Pines program where he worked.

Administrators at the Broward Youth Treatment Center hired him on Oct. 9, despite an ominous sign that Jeffries might have an anger management problem — just like many of the kids he’d be supervising. In June 2016, police say, he pulled a gun on his roommate and threatened to kill her after she demanded that he move out of the home they shared. Jeffries’ roommate later changed her mind and declined to cooperate with prosecutors, who dropped the case.

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A staffer at Broward Youth Treatment Center in Pembroke Pines was charged with punching a youth in the jaw. He was hired despite a recent arrest for domestic violence, later dropped, that involved waving a gun. CHARLES TRAINOR JR. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

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The strong and the weak

Jeffrey Butts, who is director of the Research and Evaluation Center at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said Florida’s juvenile justice system will continue to be suffused with violence as long as the private providers that operate its post-adjudication facilities pay as little as $19,000 per year to the men and women who work with often mentally ill, disabled and traumatized youths. Jeffries’ annual salary was $21,611, Sallee said.

Butts said his starting salary as an Oregon social worker with a master’s degree was about $19,000 — almost 35 years ago.

“This is a social choice,” Butts said. “Florida is making a social choice when it underpays the people who take care of the most needy and most troubled children.”

“It’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ culture with some of the people they have managing these facilities,” added Butts, who has worked with policymakers in 28 states, largely on youth justice. “With strong kids controlling the weak kids — and the staff controlling the strong kids.

“You are using violence to try to teach kids not to use violence.”

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See complete article at the Miami Herald