Single boot camp left under new law

Published: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, July 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Sheriffs in two more counties have closed their juvenile boot camps and will not reopen them under a new law that goes into effect today, leaving the state with just one facility in Polk County.
The Martin Lee Anderson act, named for a teen who died after being manhandled by guards, abolishes the boot camps. It also allocates $10.6 million for a replacement program that bans physical discipline and focuses on education, job training, community service and counseling.
Dubbed STAR for Sheriffs' Training and Respect, the program includes too many expensive requirements and too little money, some sheriffs say.
Florida had five juvenile boot camps when Anderson died in January at the Bay County facility in Panama City. It closed shortly after his death followed by the camp in Martin County. The most recent closures came this week in Pinellas and Manatee counties.
"The boy's death was a tragedy, but a net was thrown over the boot camps, and they were dragged in the boat," Manatee Sheriff Charlie Wells said. "There were two or three legislators who grandstanded and showboated."
One of those lawmakers, Rep. Gus Barreiro, R-Miami Beach, said the real reason behind the closures is that guards no longer can use physical and mental intimidation.
"If they don't want to be in the business the way the state thinks they should be, then they should find something else to do," Barreiro said.
Wells complained about some of the provisions including a hot line for inmates to report abuse.
He said the final straw was a staff estimate that the reforms would put him more than $1.5 million in debt.
Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats said his staff also told him he would need $1.2 million more than the $2.4 million the state is offering to comply with the law and contract requirements set by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said he would "hold his nose" but sign a contract.

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