The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, March 20, 1997, at 6:00 p.m., at the City Hall, City of Leesburg. Commissioners present at the meeting were: William "Bill" H. Good, Chairman; G. Richard Swartz, Vice Chairman; Catherine C. Hanson; and Rhonda H. Gerber. Others present were: Valerie Fuchs, Assistant County Attorney; Sue B. Whittle, County Manager; Alvin Jackson, Deputy County Manager; and Fletcher Smith, Senior Director, Community Services; and Toni M. Riggs, Deputy Clerk.
SUMMIT ON FUTURE OF LAKE COUNTY JUVENILE JUSTICE NEEDS
Introduction and Opening Remarks
Senator Anna Cowin opened the meeting and welcomed those present, which included Sheriff George E. Knupp, Jr.; Dr. Jerry Smith, Superintendent of Schools; Representative Stan Bainter; Tom Chapman, Chairman of the School Board; Mary Fletcher, School Board Member; Kyleen Fisher, School Board Member; Donna Miller, County Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit; T. Michael Johnson, Circuit Judge, Fifth Judicial Circuit; several Police Chiefs; Sandra Green, former School Board Member; and Tom Manning, Lake County Boys Ranch.
Senator Cowin explained that the summit meeting was scheduled in order to bring everyone together to look at funding assistance and alternatives for juvenile control. She stated that all of the options for control should probably be considered first, because there may be a need for more studies, as determined from the open discussion.
Overview of Juvenile Justice in Florida - Types of Facilities
Ms. Debbie Beville-Rehder, Juvenile Justice Manager for District 13, presented an overview of Juvenile Justice in Florida, as well as explained the different types of facilities, which included juvenile assessment centers and detention centers. Ms. Beville-Rehder stated that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was the State's newest criminal justice agency and was created by the Juvenile Justice Act of 1994. The law transferred responsibility and oversight of juvenile justice services from the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to the new department on October 1, 1994. Ms. Beville-Rehder reviewed the Vision and Mission statements for the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and presented an indepth explanation of the alternatives used to divert juveniles from the normal juvenile justice process, and the process used to determine the need to detain a juvenile in a detention center.
District 13 Facilities and Specifics on Services for Lake County Juveniles
Ms. Dixie Fosler, Superintendent of Marion Regional Detention Center, explained that the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center serves Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties. The Detention Center was built in 1982 as a 48 bed secure detention facility. In 1995, the Legislature allocated additional funds to expand the various Centers. In January, 1996, the construction began on the 20 bed expansion at the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Ms. Fosler explained that the average cost of transporting a juvenile from Lake County to the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center was $78. It was noted that the Annual Report FY 95-96 for District 13, Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center, had been provided for review.
Juvenile Assessment Centers from a Private Agency's Prospective
Mr. Barney Bishop, Human Services Associates, Inc., explained that enough time had been saved processing juveniles at the Assessment Center in Orlando that 14 officers were able to go back out on the streets. At the Assessment Center, juveniles are kept no longer that six hours for assessment, with approximately 55 to 70 percent being diverted. Therefore, most of the money is being spent on the "deep end" kids. Mr. Bishop noted that Lake County is providing the next to the largest number of juveniles to the Assessment Center, with Marion County providing the largest number. Mr. Bishop provided a five minute video tape of the Orlando Juvenile Assessment Center, which was produced by the Orange County Corrections Department.
Ms. Vickie Tanaka, Human Services Associates, Inc., explained that this was the first year anniversary for the Marion Regional Juvenile Detention Center. She explained that it cost approximately $37,000 annually to transport youth from Lake County to Marion County. Information was provided, which noted the types of arrests made in Lake County, 54% felony, 30% misdemeanor, and 16% custody order; the arrests made by race, 46% white males, 28% black males, 15% white females, 8% black females, 2% other males, and 1% other females; and the drug testing results, 60% drug-free, 30% marijuana, 7% cocaine, and 3% morphine. The information also noted that detention screening results of Lake County youth, 53% receiving secure detention, 37% being released, and 10% receiving home detention. Ms. Tanaka stated that the annual budget for the Ocala facility was under $500,000 for a 24 hour operation. She discussed the possibility of combining the money received from the Legislature for all five counties, and the possibility of the counties passing a three dollar fine assessment fee for both adults and juveniles who were found guilty through the court system.
Mr. Bishop explained that it would cost approximately $250,000 to $300,000 a year to run a 12 hour assessment center in Lake County.
Commr. Good explained that, after reviewing the statistics presented, it would be more logical to approach the front end of the juvenile issue and stop the arrest and behavorial problems, so that there would be less need for assessment and detention centers.
Group Discussion to Identify Problem and Options for a
Senator Cowin asked that those present be divided into four groups to discuss identifying the juvenile problems and develop alternatives for solving the problems.
After the groups spent some time discussing the juvenile issue, it was detemined that alternative solutions that could be reviewed would include things as a change in truancy and the point system; establishing more productive activities for youth such as apprenticeships and making the school hours consistent with working hours; alternative schools; short term facilities, perhaps ten-bed, three to five day facilities, with the possibility of utilizing Prelude; and a three dollar assessment on fines for adults and juveniles found guilty of a crime.
Commr. Swartz stressed that the County had already paid over $2 million in Article V costs since 1995, and the County needed to look today within its own system and make the most of the funds that were currently available, because you could not afford to put an assessment center and a detention center in every County.
Commr. Gerber stressed that the problem was putting the youth back on the streets too fast, which indicated a need for changing the point system, because the problem would remain the same no matter where the assessment centers and detention centers were located. She noted that truancy was a problem, and alternative schools needed to be considered, which could possibly be part of the truancy system.
Senator Cowin noted that it appeared that the consensus of the group would be to pursue an assessment center, or a second chance school, and ways to approach truancy and the point system. She stated that she would like to send a letter to all participating agencies, in order to form a committe or task force to review the results of the summit. The letter would outline the results of the meeting tonight.
Representative Bainter explained that there was already a Juvenile Justice Committee in Tallahassee, and he did not see the need to start a new committee. He stated that there was a need to stop the problem at the front end and get the children out of the environment where the problems were orginating. He invited Sheriff Knupp, once again, to speak before the Juvenile Justice Committee at the State level, and he stated that he would continue to work closely with all of the associations.
Sheriff Knupp accepted the invitation presented by Representative Bainter and stressed the need for alternative schools where the youth can develop some type of skills.
Ms. Sandra Green, former School Board member, stated that, in defense of the juvenile justice system in Lake county, and the fact that the workers carry a case load of 50 to 60 kids, a good start would be to appropriate more money to this area of the system.
Senator Cowin stated that she would forward the suggestions made tonight to the Juvenile Justice Committee, and hopefully they would be able to develop a plan.
Father Randolph stated that he would be glad to serve as the facilitator for the group, and he would like to ask every agency to send a representative to meet with him.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 7:56 p.m.
WILLIAM "BILL" H. GOOD, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK