Lawmakers Talk Boot Camp

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Anthony Schembri was on the hot seat at a legislative committee Wednesday.

It was the first time the secretary has gone before the committee since the January death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson at the Bay County Boot Camp.

Schembri told lawmakers the death of the teenager was a terrible tragedy.

“We are concerned that staff acted outside the boundaries of their training.”

The secretary painted a picture of a department reluctant to close poor performing programs because it needs beds for offenders.

Rep. Rich Needelman of Melbourne accused the agency of not seeking realistic funding.

“Not a penny was asked for last year, and not a penny was asked for this year.”

New standards for the use of force in the reaming boot camps were promised several weeks ago. They are still not ready, but there are meetings taking place in the governor’s office.

Schembri told the committee other Boot Camps in Florida are not having the problems seen here in Bay County.

“The other camps are being monitored, okay? We still have a contract with them and I don’t see any problems at the other camps.”

The lack of controls has kids’ advocates fuming.

Roy Miller of The Children’s Campaign spoke for many.

“I’m not hearing a declarative condemnation that we will not allow abuse; we will not allow children to be hurt in Florida’s Juvenile justice system.”

The Department of Juvenile Justice refuses to discuss what changes it might make.