The ACLU & the NAACP accuse the Polk County Sheriff of locking-up juveniles alongside adult criminals

11:20 PM, Oct 12, 2011   |    comments
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  • The Central County Jail in Polk Co. now houses both juveniles and adult criminals.
  • Sheriff Judd says the Juvenile Justice Facility is not a better place to house juveniles.
    

Bartow, Fla. -- Adult criminals and juveniles all under one roof in Polk County has the NAACP and the ACLU fired-up.

"It's a very frightening idea, and if we're frightened- imagine how these children feel!" ACLU attorney Julie Ebenstein told us.

Polk County moved its juveniles out of the state juvenile detention facility and, therefore, out of state control on Oct. 1. The Polk Sheriff placed them in a separate area of the county's formerly all-adult jail after a change in state law.

"[The bill] was passed in April, very late in the legislative session," Julie Ebenstein noted. "We don't feel like there was sufficient time to comment on or think through the policy implications."

However, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd takes issue with that, saying, "Just because there's a common roof over the building doesn't mean we're housing juveniles with adults. That is absurd, and it's illegal. And it's not happening. It's just that simple."

Sheriff Judd even drew a map of the facility for 10 News to show just how separated juveniles are from any adults. He also pointed out the much better condition of his county jail compared to the older, dirtier state juvenile justice facility just down the street.

Still, the ACLU & NAACP don't like the idea at all.

"We feel an adult jail is no place for a child. We're talking about children 10 years old to 17 years old. We're asking for Sheriff Judd to stop detaining children in this adult jail."

"My first question is: have they even asked to come look to see what we're doing?" Sheriff Judd asked us. "Let me answer that. No!" Sheriff Judd exclaimed. "We're doing all this and saving the taxpayers millions. The [ACLU and NAACP] have not once looked in our facilities. They've not once talked to me or any of my staff. Come on!"

Judd also pointed out that his decision to move the juveniles will save Polk County taxpayers roughly $1.4 million every year.

Both the civil rights groups and the sheriff's office have press conferences scheduled for Thursday to further address concerns. 10 News also asked to see the new juvenile detention facility, and Sheriff Judd told us he hopes to be able to fulfill that request.

Follow 10News Reporter Chase Cain on Twitter @chase_cain

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