Sheriff Testifies Before Florida Legislators About Boot Camps

A group of young people who’ve been in Florida’s juvenile justice system staged a small protest outside the Capitol, demanding an end to boot camp type programs.

Ex-offender Michael Curtis says guards at his program tried to tear him down, not build him up.

Michael Curtis says, "To break my spirit and make me think I can’t do no better, that’s all it did, and honestly, I had to fight ever since to get my life together."

Inside, lawmakers heard testimony from the sheriff who runs what many call Florida’s only successful boot camp program.

Bob Crowder of Martin County says he’s being forced to shut its doors because of a total lack of funding and support from the Department of Juvenile Justice.

Bob Crowder, Martin County Sheriff, says, "All the way back to the days before the Department of Juvenile Justice, when it was under HRS, it’s been a nightmare."

Lawmakers were stunned that DJJ wouldn’t just take funds from the Bay County program, which closed after the death of Martin Lee Anderson, and put the money into a program with a solid track record.

Rep. Gus Barreiro, (R) Miami, says, "If this program’s being so successful, let’s fund it."

DJJJ finally agreed, but only after lawmakers flat-out insisted. The sheriff and others in the business of trying to help kids say the buck stops here at the governor’s office. They say it’s ultimately up to Jeb Bush to turn things around at DJJ.

Parents and child advocates hope it won’t take the death of another child to force a turn around at an agency that’s supposed to help kids. Juvenile justice officials say it will take $100 million to bring all of the agency’s programs up to a proper funding level.