Friday, 14 October 2011

ACLU, NAACP say stop housing children with adults; Judd: 'You're uninformed'

By Dalia Dangerfield, Reporter

Representatives from the ACLU and NAACP want Sheriff Grady Judd to stop housing children in the county's adult jail. They say it's dangerous.
For the last couple of weeks, children who commit offenses in Polk County have been housed in the same facility as adult criminals. A new state law allows it.
But a group from the ACLU held a press conference Thursday saying it's not fair and the new policy is hurting the children.
"This jail is designed, built, and managed to house convicted adult criminals. It's not designed and the staff is not trained to deal with children and their special needs and they do have a number of special needs," said Julie Ebenstein, Policy and Advocacy Counsel to ACLU of Florida. "They have nutritional needs that should be met, they have medical care needs that need to be met, they have special needs to communicate with their parents, both by phone and in person, that adult inmates don’t have."
The group from the ACLU admitted they had not seen the new facility nor have they spoken to Sheriff Grady Judd about it. But they said they don't need to see it to know that this is a dangerous policy for the children.
"We know we are going through economic hard times, but there's a lot of money being wasted and we need to think about children first," said DL Wilcox, NAACP/ Haines City.
Sheriff Grady Judd says the facility may be all under one roof but the children and adults are kept in separate areas, adding that they never see each other.
Judd was outraged after hearing second-hand about the concerns.
"Neither the ACLU or the NAACP has ever come to our facility to meet with us, has not once asked to tour where these juveniles are housed, but they make these rash irrational blanket statements," Judd said.
During a press conference, the sheriff compared his operation to the one at the juvenile detention center, showing off pictures of the facilities.
Judd said the new arrangements are saving taxpayers up to $2 million a year and he was visibly upset that no one from the ACLU spoke to him about it.
"I'd say, ya'll silly people. You're uninformed. You don't want to be informed. You want to make somebody look bad and you don't even care enough about these kids to see that they're in a better environment supervised by better trained folks, with better trained administrators with better trained facility. They don't care. They're just trying to throw mud," Judd said. "We could have given them a lot of information, but then they'd be educated and they would have known what they were talking about. So why would they want to do that?"

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