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Martin County Commissioners decide not to renew lease for Martin Girls Academy

Posted: 12:00 AM, Aug 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-15 10:22:42-04
Martin County Commissioners decide not to renew lease for Martin Girls Academy

The months are now numbered for the Martin Girls Academy in Martin County.

The Martin County sheriff lead the charge to have the girls juvenile detention center shut down after years of concerns over safety and mounting costs to taxpayers.

County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to not renew the lease with the facility when the lease expires in April.

The Martin Girls Academy is privately funded and operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, LLC. It houses up to 30 girls.

However, Snyder says taxpayers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the girls over the years.

When they commit crimes at the facility or make suicide threats, they are transferred to the Martin County jail, which costs taxpayers.

“We have been tracking the calls for service and the cost to Martin County taxpayers at the Girl’s Academy for really a couple of years now,” Snyder said, finding hundreds of calls for service, mainly for assaults, Snyder said.

“Either these juveniles are assaulting each other, or they’re assaulting staff,” Snyder said.

That includes a 2013 incident where cameras captured a staff member being attacked by a girl while escorting her back to her room.

When juveniles at the facility are arrested or transferred to the jail for suicide watch, that becomes costly.

This year alone, Snyder says the county has spent approximately $280,000 paying deputies overtime to be on suicide watch for five girls.

“It’s really time to end that.”

County leaders agreed, and will next consider new uses for the facility.

“I want to see that facility currently used for the girls' academy be something that’s a benefit to the people here in Martin County,” Snyder said.

Snyder recommended using the facility for K9 training, storage, and administrative use. He also said the facility could be beneficial as a training site for firefighters.

“I don’t want to seem like a Scrooge, I know these young people need a place for rehabilitation, for incarceration, it’s just not working here,” Snyder said.

TrueCore responded to WPTV’s request for comment saying they are not commenting about the county’s decision not to renew the lease at this time.

Amanda Slama, Communications Director of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice said, "The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has had no recent communication with the commission or the sheriff regarding this issue. We will work collaboratively with all parties regarding this matter to ensure that the needs are met for this intensive mental health population of girls."