Chatter was churning on social media Saturday night when gossip started trickling in about a riot at the prison in Avon Park. Turned out the riot was actually at the Avon Park Youth Academy, but a lot of folks were worried about all the commotion going on out that way.
The riot began after a bet was made on a basketball game between residents of the facility. Eighteen of 20 buildings were damaged, golf carts were stolen, windows were broken, a Dumpster was set on fire, one resident received a broken leg and other injuries occurred as fights broke out. Several residents were arrested and are facing felony charges, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. The facility, although named Avon Park Youth Academy, is in Polk County.
The privately operated facility holds older teens and is a medium security operation. The idea is to provide vocational training to help keep teens who have had problems from entering the prison system as adults.
Guards at the facility did not have pepper spray or other ways to help quell the fight, but that's often the case. The last thing that's needed is for "residents" or inmates to be able to get a weapon from a guard.
Everyone is anxious to learn more about what happened at the facility. Until we know the entire story, it's impossible to make educated suggestions on how to fix it. A lot of nasty comments are coming in about the place being too lax on security as well as others saying treatment there is too strict.
What we do know is that some residents there were completely out of line and did major damage. It's a wonder someone wasn't hurt worse, or even killed in the melee. The perpetrators must be punished.
This is the first large-scale incident we've heard of at the youth academy so we're hesitant to say there are major flaws without more information. At facilities like this there's always a possibility of problems when tempers flare. Clearly this happened Saturday evening. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.