Coalition Urges Sheriffs against Putting Children in Adult Facilities

By: Press Release
By: Press Release

Ocala, FL -- A coalition of organizations urged sheriffs not to detain juveniles under standards that treat them like adults at today’s Florida Sheriffs’ Association (FSA) Jail Standards Committee meeting. Attendees proposed changes to the minimum standards of county jails that seek to detain children. While the preference is not to house children in county-run adult jails, at minimum Florida counties should adopt the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) standards for protecting children.

Last spring Florida lawmakers passed SB 2112 allowing county commissions to place children charged as juveniles in adult jails. While other counties have taken over control of juvenile detention since passage of SB 2112, only the Polk County Sheriff's Department has done so under the Florida Model Jail Standards rather than the standards of the DJJ, which are designed to meet the unique needs of children. Members of the coalition have called on county leaders to show leadership in rejecting the law, citing Polk County jail as an example of a larger problem.

“The goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate our children and steer them away from a life of crime. Keeping them out of adult jails and from experiencing the unnecessary dangers these facilities pose to their physical and emotional well-being is a critical step in that process,” said David Utter, Policy and Legislative Director of the SPLC Florida Youth Initiative. “We stand with these parents and community members, who only want their children to have every opportunity at being productive citizens.”

Joining David Utter at the FSA meeting were Loretta Jenkins, President of Marion County NAACP; Reverend Edward L. Bland, Pastor at Greater Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church; and representatives from Disability Rights Florida and Florida Institutional Legal Services. Other members of the coalition include Roy Miller, President of The Children’s Campaign; Florida Legal Services; and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

In addition to offering revisions to the current jail standards, coalition members also submitted statements from family members of juveniles detained in adult facilities. Gloria Cuyler’s grandson suffers from a speech disability and is currently being held in the Polk County jail, despite being a juvenile. “Why can’t Sheriff Judd understand that my grandson is a child? Adult jails are not the answers for our young people."

Roy Miller serves as President of The Children’s Campaign, a watchdog and advocacy group for Florida children. "The implementation of SB 2112 reverses over 40 years of what is best for children and long term public safety," said Miller. "The concerns of these parents who have stepped forward - as quickly as they have after their children were detained - underscores that our fears and predictions about this unfortunate change are coming to pass."

National research shows that children held in adult jails are twice as likely to suffer assault, abuse, and even death as children held in juvenile facilities. More than forty years ago, Florida established the DJJ to create protections for children that adult jails cannot provide. This came on the heels of frequent incidents of children being raped, assaulted and abused while held in adult jails.

“It is the responsibility of each citizen to do all that we can to invest in the future of young people and above all not to give up on them, even those who find themselves in legal trouble,” said Rev. Edward Bland. “Marion County Sheriff Ed Dean has worked with this community in a very effective way and he proved his concern about the welfare of youth by adopting the DJJ standards as their baseline for detaining kids.”

The Florida Sheriffs’ Association has already rejected attempts to maintain juvenile standards – allowing local sheriff departments to refuse to recognize the difference between adults and children. Deputies, who receive no training in dealing with youth, are allowed to use mace and tasers and even place children in isolation for days at a time.

“Jail is no place for children. The rush to take over juvenile detention from the state was ill conceived and has been implemented poorly, with truly harmful consequences to our children,” said David Utter. “We disagree that any child should be held in a sheriff’s jail, but if a county does decide to take over juvenile detention, they should do so under DJJ standards and oversight.

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  • by Vanessa Location: Miami on Feb 16, 2012 at 08:48 AM
    Aftern reading all these comments it bothers me that no one has taken the time to understand the details. This is not about adult crime in which the youth is "direct filed". this is about pre adjudicated youth meaning kids that can be arrested for fighting in school or misdemeanor even a first time arrest. People are quick to say things without researching facts. Maybe we should focus on rehabilitation youth since they will be back into our society.
  • by Surly Location: Grrr on Feb 6, 2012 at 09:26 AM
    @Gerry: they understand the difference between accusation and conviction -- they just don't want it getting in the way of a good tingle. -- @ linda: one thing is sure: the adult inmates will glad to see any kids you send them. -- Lastly: the pros know what they are doing, by and large -- see the post by tan man...
  • by Tan Man Location: Wakulla on Feb 6, 2012 at 07:07 AM
    Would you put a violent 16 yr. old bloody rapist in the same cell with a 14 yr. old shoplifter?
  • by Anonymous on Feb 6, 2012 at 06:50 AM
    the judge in ocala has had several dui's where does he belong?
  • by Linda Location: Tallahassee on Feb 5, 2012 at 06:39 PM
    For some it may not be right. but a child who is already on the track to assault, sexual battery, attempted murder, murder is no child. they belong with the adult population. I have children (both grown). a child knows the difference between good and evil beginning around age 5. and their understanding grows as they do. please let's drop the argument that a "child" could not control themselves. by the time the teen years are reached, they understand what is good or bad - acceptable versus not acceptable. the more you allow kids to avoid responsibility for their actions the greater the problem. look at some of the greatest criminals. they had parents who didn't care or thought whatever their child did was right or could be excused. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. ever hear of it? a lot more of it could be used these days.
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Feb 5, 2012 at 11:06 AM
    I thought the Supreme Court had outlawed the execution of juveniles. However, I admire God Bless America's sense of humor: kids not old enough to vote or drive a car should be put to death. Why can't 13 year olds vote? Why can't 13 year olds drive a car? That's funny. Not old enough for adult privileges or responsibilities, but old enough for the death penalty.
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Feb 5, 2012 at 10:57 AM
    Unfortunately, I missed the story about a violent, 16 year old convicted rapist who had raped a 65 year old, and whom Dee described as a monster. I believe the correct term is "alleged monster."
  • by Gerry Location: Tallahassee on Feb 5, 2012 at 10:48 AM
    I read about an alleged rape at Godby High. Many don't understand the difference between accusation and conviction.
  • by Commonsense Location: Tallahassee on Feb 5, 2012 at 08:58 AM
    Don't treat juvenile offenders like adults. Ok, I can see that in many instances, BUT when a juvenile commits a major crime (ie muder, armed robbery, and other violent crimes) they should be treated as an adult and but in bigboy jail. I also think than habitual offenders of other crimes (ie. their 15th arrest for burglary) justifies bigboy jail as well, since they obviously didn't learn anything in Juvenile detention.
  • by Steve Location: Florida Native/resident, go get your med's.... on Feb 4, 2012 at 02:35 PM
    Didn't read, didn't have too...I made my claim. Get them 'nads, and these hoodrats will stop this s***! Thanx WCTV.TV.
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