State lawmakers demand answers from Department of Juvenile Justice

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
October 23, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A video of kids being egged on to fight by officers in juvenile detention facilities and guards beating kids with brooms and flashlights is causing a concern in the state capitol.

Florida spends $200 million a year locking up kids.

Money, FSU researcher Deborrah Brodsky says, is not being spent well.

"We're spending $200 million a year on residential facilities in Florida and we are getting 45 to 46 percent recidivism one year out," Brodsky said. "Kids are going back into the system. That, to me, shows abysmal failure."

Last week, Governor Rick Scott said he has confidence in the Juvenile Justice Secretary. Lawmakers will hold more hearings on juvenile justice later this week.

By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
October 11, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A two year investigation by the Miami Herald found life and death troubles at the state's Department of Juvenile Justice, and lawmakers are saying they will demand answers.

In one video from a Jacksonville detention center, an officer is seen beating a 17-year-old with a flashlight. The youth was allegedly asking for water and the officer was hired despite being on probation for battery.

In another video, an officer appears to be refereeing a fight.

DJJ Secretary Cristy Daly was scheduled to appear at a budget meeting Wednesday when she was asked about the investigation.

"I will not deny, discredit or downplay some of the horrible incidents that have happened," Daly said. "We respond appropriately to those. We hold people accountable."

Senator Jeff Clemons says the problem is that the state turned over its police powers to private companies. Most detention centers for teens are run by private contractors.

"A lack of accountability, the inability to make sure we are doing it correctly. And here, we’re talking about kids,” he said.

We asked one State Attorney as he was leaving the meeting if he had any pause about sending kids to DJJ. He said they have to clean up their their act.

Chairman Jeff Brandes promises a thorough follow up.

"I want to speak to her [Daly] on the record in front of the committee asking difficult questions, specifically about hiring practices," he said.

Governor Rick Scott has already asked for a 10 percent pay hike for Juvenile Justice workers.

The Legislature is asking the DJJ to voluntarily allow lawmakers to make surprise visits to juvenile centers. It's not specifically allowed under current law, but is likely to become law this coming session.

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