Department of Juvenile Justice Requests Money

The Department of Juvenile Justice is still cleaning up after a weekend riot at a Polk County Juvenile detention center.

Secretary Wansley Waters says she is still looking for answers.

“So that we can determine what can be done to prevent this from happening again,” said Walter.

The Department faces other woes. Just two months into the new budget year, the department faces the possibility of running out of money.

“Our budget that was allocated by the legislature didn’t really fund us to address anything like this,” said Walter.

The problem is a recent court ruling that prohibits the department from charging counties for locking up juvenile offenders. The state is now scrambling to make up a 35-million dollar deficit. There’s another 19 million dollar budget hole after the Federal government stopped sharing health care

“We’re looking for legislature to assist us,” said Walter.

While the department may be broke, the state isn’t. DJJ is asking lawmakers to tap a two billion dollar savings account.

The financial issue is expected to be a one year problem.

“As we move forward, our budget will be whole so we don’t encounter these short falls every year,” said Walter.

Lobbyist Barney Bishop isn’t surprised by the courts decision, but he says DJJ is trying to right any wrongs.

“I think this is a legitimate issue and the secretary is doing the appropriate thing by notifying both the governor and the respected appropriation chairs,” said Bishop.

Although unlikely, it is possible the budget shortfalls could lead to the closure of several juvenile facilities statewide.

DJJ has also been working with the Agency for Health Care Administration to provide cost estimates on the projected shortfalls.