FL juvenile detention centers struggle to recruit workers; a high turnover rate is not sustainable

The state’s juvenile justice department revealed this week that workers are quitting their jobs due to low wages resulting in high turnover rates, and officials are asking for more funds to increase wages.

Josefina Tamayo, acting secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, urged state lawmakers this week to support the agency’s budget proposal for 2022-2023 to increase the wages of “people who s ‘care for children in our 24-hour detention centers “.

Those positions are juvenile justice detention officers, supervisors and juvenile justice probation officers, according to Tamayo. The agency is asking for $ 15.3 million in ongoing funds for salary increases. Lawmakers will build the state budget during the 2022 legislative session.

Tamayo told members of the House Justice Appropriation Subcommittee that these funds would help address “recruitment and retention issues” associated with the positions.

Currently, juvenile detention officers earn around $ 13 an hour and Tamayo said she would like at least $ 17 an hour. As for supervisors, she said they make about $ 14 an hour, but want to increase that number to $ 18.

“The turnover rate associated with positions has steadily increased over the past decade and is currently at unsustainable high levels,” she said.

During the meeting, Tamayo said the turnover rate has increased to 68 percent for juvenile detention officers, over the past five years. For juvenile probation officers, the turnover rate is 17%, Tamayo added.

“Despite repeated efforts to address these issues, including a recently approved increase in the base rate of pay, turnover and recruitment trends and conditions continue to worsen,” Tamayo said.

Meanwhile, committee members requested more information on contributing factors related to the Florida DJJ’s turnover rate.

State Representative Christopher Benjamin, a Democrat representing part of Miami-Dade County, asked the agency for a report that included other factors contributing to the turnover rate. Tamayo said she would provide this report to state lawmakers and invited them to visit detention centers.

“I guess there are other factors besides the salary,” Benjamin said.

According to the state’s DJJ website, probation officers work with young people charged with a felony “to help young people get back on track for success.” And juvenile detention officers work in detention centers across the state, providing direct care to young people.

The Florida Phoenix has covered the juvenile justice front, as juvenile justice advocates hope to expand so-called diversion programs to include criminal offenses. Programs generally focus on incidents of crime committed by young people, and Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed the legislation this summer over concerns about serious crime.

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