Three teen inmates escaped late Sunday from the Jacksonville Youth Academy, the fourth escape in as many months from a state juvenile justice facility in Northeast Florida.

 

Eleven teens were involved in the four escapes, including eight from a St. Johns County detention center. All of the facilities involved are operated by an organization called G4S Youth Services. A representative of that organization could not be reached Monday.

The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice said in a statement that it takes incidents at its programs “very seriously to ensure the safety of both youth and staff.”

“Juvenile Justice will continue to work with law enforcement as well as conducting our own investigation of this incident to confirm that all policies and procedures were followed,” the statement said. If policies and procedures were not followed, G4S Youth Services will be held accountable, Juvenile Justice officials said.

Derek Browley, 16; Luther Davis, 16; and Justin Silva, 15, escaped at 11:30 p.m. from the Northside Jacksonville facility at 4501 Lannie Road, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Police said Davis asked a guard if he could use the bathroom. That’s when Silva called another security guard to the locked door of the room he shared with Browley. The guard opened the door to talk to Silva, who punched him in the mouth, the report said. Silva and Browley grabbed the guard’s keys from the door and ran out of the room as Davis fled the bathroom.

The guard who had been punched and two others tried to stop the fleeing teens, but their portable radios fell to the floor during the attempt. The teens scooped up the radios and threw them at one guard’s face, causing an eye to bleed and swell, the report said. The guards grappled with the teens, but they used the key to unlock an outside door, then jumped a fence and took off on foot, police said. Another guard had a cut lip from being punched, the report said.

Officers searched for the escapees with a police dog, but no trace of them was found.

Browley was in Jacksonville’s juvenile facility on three 2017 charges — carjacking and burglary in January, and auto theft in April, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Silva’s charges include grand theft and violation of probation, while Davis’s include auto burglary, auto theft and burglary, both from other jurisdictions, according to juvenile justice.

The Jacksonville Youth Academy is one of 54 facilities for teens under state Department of Juvenile Justice control. Eleven operate in an 18-county Northeast Florida region. It is listed as a “structured, non-secure treatment program” for up to 24 boys ages 14 to 18 with mental health and behavioral health services, according to the department’s website. The average length of stay is three to nine months, the teens ordered there by a judge to complete a substance-abuse program.

The academy is run under state contract by G4S Youth Services, which provides what it calls “resdential-based juvenile services” in Florida, Texas and Tennessee. Formerly a subsidiary of the global security company G4S, the company was sold in April for $56.5 million to BHSB Holdings, a Tampa-based provider of healthcare services.

G4S also operates the Hastings Youth Academy, which saw three inmate escapes between March and May at the facility just west of Florida 207, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office had to add a portable observation tower and portable floodlights May 18 after two teens escaped. That escape occurred only weeks after four others escaped. Two of those same boys briefly escaped in March after hopping over a fence. All of the teens were caught.

The St. Johns Sheriff’s Office did not provide details of those escapes.

A department review of the Jacksonville facility for Fiscal Year 2015/2016 shows no one escaped from it over that period. A program report on the Hastings facility for 2016 and 2015 did not contain escape data.

Anyone who sees the escapees is asked to call 911 for police help. Anyone else with information on the escape or the location of the trio is asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500, or via email at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward, contact Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.

Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549