Florida’s decision to outlaw its military-style boot camp system used to discipline troubled juveniles does not erase the need for a full and complete investigation that leads to accountability in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, NAACP President and CEO Bruce S. Gordon said today.
“The NAACP will continue to press the state for justice in this case,” said Gordon. “Tragically, there is nothing that will bring back young Anderson, but those responsible for his death and the cover-up must be held accountable.”
The NAACP has asked the United States Justice Department to investigate Anderson’s death and to pursue justice after their findings. So far, a request by the Florida State Conference NAACP for a federal investigation has gone unanswered.
“Getting rid of the boot camps does not address the statewide issue of juvenile justice,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president, Florida State Conference NAACP. In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Nweze asked the Justice Department to probe the many allegations of abuse in state-run juvenile facilities. Nweze also asked Gonzales to “look into whether or not Mr. Anderson’s civil rights were violated by the guards who, acting under the authority of the state, took actions that lead to his death.” She said, “At least five other Florida teenagers have died while in state custody in the last three years.”
The NAACP will lead a march and rally Saturday, June 3 to press for continued investigations of the Anderson case and other incidents involving the deaths of juveniles in custody. NAACP officials, including Gordon, will hold a press conference in front of the Panama City City Hall, 9 Harrison Avenue, at 9 a.m. followed by a rally and march.
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill Wednesday that eliminates the boot camp system. The new law takes effect five months after Anderson was punched and kicked by guards at the Bay County Boot Camp. In the future, juvenile detainees will go to residential programs that bar physical discipline. The bill also prohibits the use of ammonia capsules, limits corporal punishment and calls for more thorough screening of juvenile offenders before they are committed to programs.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
CONTACT: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125