Changes for Polk DJJ youth academy after riot - WFLA News Channel 8

Changes for Polk DJJ youth academy after riot

Posted: Updated:
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Changes are in store for the Department of Juvenile Justice facility that was the site of a riot last year that started over a basketball game wager involving cups of noodle soup.

The Avon Park Youth Academy will shrink from 144 beds to 80 beds and the staff-to-resident ratio will also be cut under a new contract to operate the facility in Polk County, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters told News Channel 8.

The staff ratio will be one staff member to three residents during the day, and one staff member to five residents at night, compared with the standard of one-to-10 and one-to-12, respectively, she said.

"We've learned that we wanted to take a step back and rethink our programming," Walters said.

The incident last August involved dozens of teenage residents and resulted in broken windows and other vandalism at the facility, which is considered a "moderate-risk" program that also provides vocational training for male teenagers aged 16-19.

"Clearly something happened at that program that those kids were not under control," Walters said. "And that is not the standard or the norm in our facilities."

Some people have been fired as a result of the incidents and new people hired, Walters said.

Surveillance cameras are also being added at the facility. DJJ had already intended to add them, but moved up the timetable, she said.

The contract for operations at Avon Park ends this spring and the same contractor operating there now – G4S – was the only one to respond with a bid for a new contract. DJJ is currently in negotiations with G4S, a DJJ spokeswoman said.

The state's investigation into the incident at Avon Park Youth Academy is in its final stages, with reports sent to various affected parties for comment in late January.

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