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Counties call juvenile justice rules “unfunded mandate”

St Johns County reported to Historic City News that, during the current fiscal year, juvenile offenders were held in custody a total of 826 days before their cases were disposed. Under the terms of an agreement, county taxpayers are legally responsible for those costs; but not the custodial costs once the case is disposed of.

Historic City News has learned that a Proposed Rule Hearing at the Department of Juvenile Justice headquarters in Tallahassee this morning will take up long-standing complaints in the way the state bills counties for the cost of care for juvenile detention.

The bone of contention, according to correspondence from the Florida Association of Counties to the Department, appears to be that, “For close to a decade, counties have had to shoulder the cost of secure juvenile detention — while having no control over the costs of the system.”

The Association has filed their objections to the proposed rules regarding the cost share between counties and the state, declaring the Department of Juvenile Justice’s regulations have compounded the burden on our local tax payers. The Department’s past failures to promulgate rules that comply with the law have resulted in counties paying upwards of $200 million more than they lawfully owed, according to Christopher L. Holley, the Association’s Executive Director.

As currently drafted, the Department’s proposed rule changes would transfer cost responsibility to the counties for all days after a youth is placed on probation — if that violation of probation is coupled with a new offense. During Fiscal year 2013-2014, the state estimated that the cost per day for each inmate is $326.13.

In St Johns County, this change could obligate local taxpayers for up to 1,433 additional days. It is estimated that this change will result in the counties paying approximately $57 million for secure detention in FY14-15, representing a $25 million cost shift from the state to the counties.

Michael Gold

St Augustine native, Michael Gold, is editor at Historic City News. He is an advocate for grassroots citizen journalism whose job is holding public figures accountable to the public. Founded on the Internet in March 2000, HCN has developed from a periodic newsletter, to an interactive platform, to a publication read by the area's most engaged citizens. Historic City News is focused on news originating from or having an impact on St Augustine and St Johns County. Contact by e-mail

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