Youth in Polk County Sheriff's Department Jail
Children housed at Polk County adult jail have been subjected to abuse, neglect and violence that even includes guards placing young children in cages as a form of punishment.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of Polk County youth, which describes how guards routinely threaten, intimidate and punish children by spraying them with harsh chemicals for even minor infractions, such as taking too long to get dressed. It also charges that Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd fails to provide these youth with adequate educational and rehabilitative services.
Judd began housing children at the facility in October 2011, shortly after the state passed legislation allowing counties to place children charged as juveniles in adult jails. Since that time, the sheriff has housed over 100 children, some as young as eight years old, in the Polk County Jail.
Polk County is the only county in Florida to detain youth charged as juveniles under jail standards rather than Department of Juvenile Justice(DJJ) standards. The guards receive virtually no training on how to work with children.
Decades of research show that exposing children to adult jails leads to more crime, not less. Based on this research, states around the country have passed legislation prohibiting the placement of children in adult jails.
Judd's treatment of children in his care exemplify how this legislation has reversed more than 40 years of juvenile justice efforts to create protections for children that adult jails cannot provide.