The Secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) was in Bay County Wednesday to host a town hall meeting. During the discussion Secretary Wansley Walters talked about her plans to reform the organization, but she's also been tracking a legal dispute involving 14 local governments.
Several counties including Bay, filed suit against the DJJ, claiming the organization improperly shifted extra juvenile-detention costs to the counties.
In a final order filed Thursday, DJJ disputed that argument. Secretary Walters told News 13, her hands are simply tied by the laws put forth by the legislature.
The legislature initially funded detention cost sharing so that counties would be responsible for 89% of detention costs, while the state took on 11%. Walters says there is not doubt that their interpretation of the law is precisely what the legislature had in mind and the proof is found in the funding.
At Wednesday's Town Hall meeting, Walters reports of progress. "We're very heartened by the fact that we've been working very closely with the Florida association of counties and with the Florida Sheriff's Association to see what we can do to craft a different kind of cost share that is going to be much fairer and something that everyone can live with."
Secretary Walters says they are very close to wrapping up their discussions. She believes that at the completion of the talks, there will be a solution they can bring to the Florida legislature, further alleviating the burden on counties.
The goal of the Town Hall meeting was to share DJJ's goals to comprehensively evaluate and reform juvenile justice. Several members of the community like the Director of the Boys & Girls Club, District 14 State Attorney's Office and Panama City's Marine Institute were present.
Discussions included talks of the future of the Department's relationship with school districts, how juveniles can repay restitution without placing the burden on their parents and how there is a lack of available substance abuse & mental health services for youth before coming into system.
The Secreatry is working on a roadmap to improve the Department. You can find more information at http://www.djj.state.fl.us/roadmap-to-system-excellence
DJJ also has a Twitter account: Follow them @fladjj