Juvenile justice: Sparked by a Palm Beach County jail death, the Florida House unanimously passed a bill protecting teens from abuse by staff in lock-ups run by the Department of Juvenile Justice – but for many advocates, the Legislature should be putting more protections in place.
The Dream Defenders, a youth group focused on juvenile justice issues, called this week for protection from arrests at school for minor incidents. The group also called for an end to pepper spray and solitary confinement in jails run by Florida counties and to stop putting teens in the juvenile justice system for misdemeanor first offenses.
Florida incarcerates more youths per capita than any of the 10 most populous states. Last year, more than 58,000 were arrested – a rate 40 percent higher than the national average. So members of the Dream Defenders staged a sit-in this week at Gov. Rick Scott’s office and called on the Legislature to give their bills a hearing, but the measure that passed Friday wasn’t on their radar screen.
DJJ had asked Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, to sponsor the bill (HB 353) after the death of Eric Perez of a cerebral hemorrhage at the Palm Beach Regional Detention Center in 2011. A 2012 inspector general’s report found that agency employees didn’t call for help because they thought Perez was faking his illness. A grand-jury report was scathing, but found criminal charges couldn’t be filed against the staff because there was no basis in state law. So HB 353 expands the definition of child abuse to include youths in DJJ detention facilities.
Gov glows with Tebow: Gov. Rick Scott presented one of the first “Great Floridian” awards to footballer Tim Tebow, calling him “a great role model for young athletes…, a true competitor and humanitarian.”
The “Great Floridian” designation is given in recognition of the outstanding achievements of men and women who have made significant contributions to the progress and welfare of Florida. The governor’s office notes that previous honorees included former governors, civil rights activists, military heroes, Florida Supreme Court Justices and others.
Ethics machinations: The state’s main ethics watchdog is asking lawmakers not to allow differences on a campaign finance bill capsize an ethics reform bill. Matt Carlucci, a member of the Florida Commission on Ethics, issued a letter calling for House and Senate leaders to look beyond the clash on the campaign finance bill and pass the ethics measure.
“On behalf of the Commission, I urge all the parties not to let differences in philosophy in one arena stand in the way of progress on things we all can agree on,” Carlucci wrote.
Senate Ethics and Elections Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, has said that the House wants the upper chamber to agree to raise the limits on contributions to political campaigns in order to allow the ethics bill to go through. The Senate’s current version of the finance bill (SB 1382) leaves the contribution limits where they are.
Carlucci also asked lawmakers to strengthen the ethics measure by, among other things, allowing the commission to start investigations without waiting for a citizen to file a complaint.
Education spokesman: Joe Follick will join the Department of Education as director of communications on Monday. Follick, 45, heads to DOE from the Department of Children and Families, where he has been communications director since October 2009.
Follick is a former reporter, having gone to DCF after working for the then-New York Times Regional Newspapers and came to Tallahassee in 2000 to work for the Tampa Tribune. He also worked at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan. He’s a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.
Post staff and wire services.