A Florida judge condemns the use of pepper spray in juvenile facility
by Niki Gatewood(@Niki_G)
A federal court emphatically condemned Florida sheriff Grady Judd’s inhumane practice of using pepper spray on children and fails to prevent violence at the Polk County jail.
As stated on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website (splcenter.org), October 2011 was when Judd began housing children at the Polk County Jail in Bartow. Sheriff Grady’s action coincided with a law allowing county commissions to house children charged as juveniles in adult jails. Although most of the youths arrested in Polk County are merely charged with nonviolent offenses, probation violations, or misdemeanors, the sheriff continues to institutionalize scores of children. Several of these children are still under ten years of age.
Magistrate Jude Mark A. Pizzo asserts, “The overwhelming view in Florida and the rest of the nation regarding the use of pepper spray in juvenile settings is at odds with Sheriff [Grady] Judd’s practice.” A passionate, 61-page report to the U.S. District Court in Tampa demands, “He would be wise to develop a plan for reducing the juvenile-on-juvenile violence and limiting the use pepper spray.”
The judge’s report and recommendation came in a lawsuit challenging the treatment of children detained at the Polk County Jail before trial. The lawsuit, describing how children are subjected to inhumane treatment, including the use of pepper spray for even minor infractions like singing and not moving fast enough, was filed last year by the SPLC. The judge recommended to the District Court that the case proceed as a class action lawsuit on behalf of all children detained at the jail. Trial is set for June 3.
“The court’s opinion today recognizes that children are fundamentally different from adults and therefore must be treated differently,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Florida office. “Polk County and Florida should be leading the country in effective juvenile justice practices that treat children humanely and reduce recidivism – not taking us backward.”
Polk County is the only county in Florida so far to detain children and teens charged as juveniles under adult jail standards as opposed to those tailored for juvenile detention. Judd’s treatment of children in his care exemplifies how the legislation, known as SB 2112, has reversed more than 40 years of efforts to create protections for children that adult jails cannot provide. Research shows that placing children in adult jails not only puts them in danger, but also increases recidivism once they are out.