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How Men With Criminal Records Have Been Running Palm Beach Summer Camps

summer-camp_180x120-150x107According to an article in the Palm Beach Post, Palm Beach County unknowingly paid convicted child molesters, thieves, drug dealers, and others with criminal records nearly half a million dollars to run summer camps for homeless and foster children within the past three years.

As these people with extensive criminal records began opening camps, no one was required, or even asked, to pass background checks, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found. Palm Beach County Division of Human Services provides about $1.2 million ever summer to subsidize camp tuition for the county’s poorest children.

The Palm Beach Post conducted an investigation screening 101 private summer camp companies most recently approved to receive county money. They examined corporate filings, criminal and civil court documents, police reports and jail records.

Here are their findings:

  • Roughly one in eight companies was run by at least one person with a criminal conviction or arrest history. One camp operator was convicted of nearly two dozen felonies during a 28-year stretch.
  • Since 2007, 617 homeless, foster or disadvantaged children have attended camps run by people with criminal records. During that period, the county paid these camps $473,059.50, or about $767 per child, in tax dollars, grants and contributions.
  • Day-to-day responsibility for administering the scholarships falls to a single county employee who spends part of her time on the program. She ensures camps meet basic requirements, such as providing access to bathrooms and drinking water, but stops far short of screening camp operators’ backgrounds.
  • No state agency runs background checks on camp operators because laws meant to protect the vulnerable don’t apply to children in summer camps. Although the Department of Children and Families screens owners and operators of day-care centers and other child-care providers, an exemption in Florida statutes effectively allows anyone, even a registered sex offender, to open a summer camp and gain unsupervised access to children.

How to Handle A Criminal Record

This case is one significant exception to the rule when you have a criminal record. Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor has even said that this situation demands legislative action.

In general, when you apply for a job, a loan, or pretty much anything where a background check is conducted, your criminal record can be your biggest enemy. It can take so many opportunities away from you and restrict your freedom. The most common way to clear your criminal record is to get it expunged. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for answers to a better life.

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