Dozens of guards were replaced and a new warden was installed in Tallulah, La., while the state ponders its next step.
The move came after a Justice Department and New York Times investigation found scores of examples of brutality against juvenile offenders, some as young as 11 -- many of whom are mentally ill or retarded.
Meals were so poor, for example, that many boys lost weight. Clothing was so scarce that boys fought over shirts and shoes -- and guards often set up the fights so they could bet on who would win.
Privately run adult prisons are already under fire because of attacks on inmates. However, mistreatment of juveniles is now receiving special attention because of the recent deaths of two young boys in private prisons in Colorado and California.
One young Tallulah ex-inmate said he suffered beatings -- and saw even worse.
"People 12-years-old in that place, they're beating them... I have seen a guard beat a 12-year-old down, break his nose," he said.
Records show 30 boys were seriously injured in May alone. Attorney Scott Wollenson is suing the prison.
"Kids with broken jaws, perforated eardrums, crushed testicles," said Wollenson.
Relatives like Leanna Martin said complaints only caused more beatings.
"I asked the question, `What does he do to make you beat him like that?' And they say, `Disobeying orders,'" said Martin.
Strapped for cash -- but overloaded with offenders, more and more states are turning to these privately run prisons for profit.
The strain is starting to show. Charges of abuse have been filed in three other states as well, and the Justice Department says it is paying close attention.
Reported by Jim Stewart
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