TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Florida legislator is calling on the state to close its military-style boot camps for juvenile delinquents after a 14-year-old boy died just hours after entering one of the facilities.
"These programs are not working ... this 'shock and awe mentality' on a kid," said state Rep. Gustavo "Gus" Barreiro, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee. "We need to shut these things down."
But his Senate counterpart, Steve Wise, said he still supports the concept.
"Every once in a while something happens. It happens in prisons; it happens in real life, too," he said. "We just have to make sure we try to fix it."
Gov. Jeb Bush said lawmakers should take a hard look at the juvenile facilities and may need to standardize their policies.
"When you look at recidivism rates, they have had a proven record of success," Bush said. "When you have a case where a child dies you need to pause and do the necessary investigations. That's what happening right now."
The Department of Juvenile Justice is reviewing all sheriff's office policies for the camps in light of last week's death of Martin Lee Anderson, said spokeswoman Cynthia Lorenzo.
Anderson was sent to the Bay County Sheriff's Office camp because of an arrest for grand theft.
He had to be restrained when he became uncooperative following exercises as part of the entry process at the Panama City camp, authorities said. He soon complained of breathing difficulties and collapsed. He died the next day a Pensacola hospital.
The family's attorney says the boy was abused and has filed an intent to sue.
"There's a lot that just doesn't add up," attorney Ben Crump said. The youngster had a cut lip, bloody nose and a bruise on his face, he said.
The victim's mother, Gina Jones, said her son was in good physical shape. He was about 6-1 and weighed about 140 pounds, she said.
Sheriff's investigators have not completed a preliminary report, but a sheriff's spokeswoman denied that Anderson was abused. The state gave the camp a good review in June 2004.
The state Department of Juvenile Justice's records show that 62 percent of graduates from the several camps around the state are re-arrested after release. The camps are run by county sheriff's offices under contract from the state.