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Sheriff Grady Judd fires back at claims of child abuse inside Polk jail | Crime

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Sheriff Grady Judd fires back at claims of child abuse inside Polk jail
Crime

TAMPA, Florida - A civil rights group says children were mistreated, neglected and not properly protected while being held in the adult jail in a central Florida county.

The Southern Poverty Law Center sued in federal court Wednesday to try to stop Polk County from holding juveniles in its adult lockup. The state legislature passed a law last year allowing the practice as a money-saving measure, as long as the children were segregated from adult inmates.

Tania Galloni, managing attorney of the Montgomery, Ala.,-based group, say children held in the Polk jail are supervised by corrections officer who aren't trained to deal with them. She says they are pepper-sprayed, isolated and harassed. The group maintains that juvenile offenders should be held in a dedicated facility.

"We know that putting kids in adult jails doesn't work," Galloni said, "the main issues we're raising are the failure to protect and create a safe environment at the jail."

Polk County sheriff Grady Judd called a Wednesday afternoon news conference of his own to deny that children are mistreated.

"You don't know how much we look forward to this," Judd said of the case, "we're going to put them in their place.  We're going to show that the information they provided is erroneous."

Judd says juveniles and adults are separated by block walls inside the jail, so they can never see or hear each other.

Polk is the only county in Florida currently housing both groups under one roof.

Judd tells 10 News he does it because the facility is newer, the deputies are better trained, and it saves taxpayers about $2 million each year.

Anyone who believes there is child abuse taking place inside the jail needs a "mental evaluation," according to Judd.

Attorneys for the SPLC group say they aren't seeking monetary damages for the seven teenagers they filed the lawsuit on behalf of.

Instead, they just want juveniles and adults in different facilities.

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