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06-27-2007, 12:36 PM
Juvenile center coming back to county jail

Thanks to a change in heart by the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Juvenile Assessment Center will resume its location at the Sarasota County Jail and certain funds originally earmarked to cover the move will instead go toward its operating costs.

NORTH PORT -- The Juvenile Assessment Center has gotten the green light to come back to the Sarasota County Jail.

The center, a facility in the jail which provided detention screening, psychosocial assessments, drug testing and case management to juveniles detained by law enforcement officers, was closed Oct. 1, 2006, because it was found by the Department of Juvenile Justice to be in violation of the Martin Lee Anderson Act.

That act was passed in 2006 by the Florida Legislature following the death of a juvenile at a DJJ-funded boot camp. This prompted many changes in the way juveniles are processed at law enforcement facilities, some of which did not strictly comply with how things are done at the Sarasota County Jail. When the Sheriff's Office did not comply with DJJ mandates to send certain officers to "Protective Action Response" training or to disarm them when in contact with juveniles, the DJJ closed the center and relocated it to a facility in Manatee County.

According to James Schulz, criminal justice policy coordinator, the DJJ had a change of heart after taking another look at the matter.

"The DJJ, after 10 months of suggesting the Martin Lee Anderson Act applies to our (center) located in our jail, has reversed that opinion," Schulz told the county commissioners Tuesday.

Schulz said the DJJ's reversal occurred just in time to save the county $92,188 from the Strategic Initiatives and Opportunities Fund and $74,812 in monies from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant to support the temporary relocation to a site in Sarasota County. Schulz requested the commissioners to authorize the Byrne Grant money to cover operating costs at the jail.

"We have set the wheels in motion to open the (center) within the jail Monday morning," Schulz said.

You can e-mail Steven J. Smith at ssmith@sun-herald.com.


Staff Writer