Polk Sheriff reacts to juvenile facility security changes after - WFLA News Channel 8

Polk Sheriff reacts to juvenile facility security changes after riot

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File photo of Avon Park Youth Academy File photo of Avon Park Youth Academy
POLK COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Allowing staff at a juvenile justice facility where a riot broke out last year to carry things like pepper spray is among the changes that should be made at the Avon Park site, a Tampa Bay area sheriff says.

The riot at Avon Park Youth Academy last summer involved dozens of teenagers and started with a fight over a basketball game and a wager over cups of noodle soup.

“I can tell you that got totally out of hand because they didn’t have the tools to deal with it,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, whose agency sent dozens of deputies to the scene that night.

News Channel 8 reported last month that the Department of Juvenile Justice is making some changes at the facility in light of the incident. It has added cameras and plans to shrink the number of beds from 144 to 80 and require the contractor responsible for operations there have a smaller resident to staff ratio (three residents to one staff during the day and five to one at night, compared with the standard of one to 10 during the day and one to 12 at night).

However, DJJ has said it does not plan to change the policy of prohibiting staff from carrying things like pepper spray as a method to control residents.

According to a report produced by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office on the incident, staff there armed themselves with mop and broom handles during the riot.

Related Content: Avon Park Youth Academy riot

“The staffing was correct according to DJJ’s rules that night,” he said. “But I’ve got to tell you, 19 or 20 staff members can’t fight 144 out of control thugs or criminals.”

Judd also said he had twice sent DJJ a roughly $50,000 bill for his agency’s response that night and also for housing some of the juveniles displaced from the damaged facility after the riot. That bill has not been paid, he said.

A spokeswoman for DJJ said that “after consultation with the DJJ General Counsel’s office as well as the Florida Department of Financial Services, it has been determined that the state does not have statutory authority to reimburse for the costs submitted.”

Read the entire draft report from DJJ on Avon Park HERE

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