MIAMI – Florida lawmakers agreed Wednesday to shut down the state's juvenile boot camp system and pour more money into a less militaristic program for dealing with juvenile offenders.
The sheriff-run boot camps have been under scrutiny since the January death of a 14-year-old boy who had been kicked and beaten by guards at a Panama City camp.
The changes, agreed to by House and Senate negotiators, are part of a state budget agreement that still requires both chambers' approval.
Under the agreement, the boot camps would be replaced with a new, less militaristic program called Sheriff's Training and Respect. It would be run by sheriffs and closely monitored by the Department of Juvenile Justice. The state would pump an additional $32.6 million into juvenile justice programs, increasing the total spending to $699.5 million.
"Unfortunately it has taken the death of a young man to get to this point," said Republican Rep. Gus Barreiro, who heads the House Juvenile Justice Appropriations Committee. "There has never been an increase like that."
The Panama City camp was shut down after Martin Lee Anderson's death, which remains under investigation and has drawn protests and calls for action from civil rights leaders.
Gov. Jeb Bush, who had been a strong supporter of the boot camps, had said he supports the new initiatives, which would take effect July 1.