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Lake County sheriff wants to house juveniles at jail

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - The Lake County Sheriff's Office wants to follow Marion County's controversial lead and house juvenile offenders with adults in the county jail.

Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders appeared before county commissioners in Tavares this week to go over his budget and explore the option of renovating the jail to accommodate juveniles.

Borders argues that renovating the jail would save the county money.

WFTV reporter Berndt Petersen reports that it costs taxpayers $20 million a year to run the Lake County Jail. But part of that total involves inmates who don't even sleep at the jail – juvenile suspects who have to be transported to the state Department of Juvenile Justice facility in Ocala.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office stopped sending younger inmates to the facility because it costs the county more than $200 per day per inmate. Borders told commissioners his expenses to transfer juvenile suspects are even higher.

"I have deputies driving to Marion County every night to drop them off," Borders said.

Lt. John Herrell of the Lake County Sheriff's Office added, "It creates manpower shortages to drive the inmates up there and back. Obviously the fuel expense is another thing to consider."

But housing juveniles with adult inmates is controversial. A state rule mandates that juvenile and adult inmates never cross paths or even be within hearing of each other. Satisfying that rule could involve expensive renovations at the Lake County Jail – one of Florida's 67 county lockups.

"And of those, 58 of them are operated by the sheriff,'' Borders told commissioners. "Eight of them are operated by the county commissioners. And are those the best run in the state? No sir. You live in the county that has the best run in the state.''

Leaders in the Lake County Sheriff's Office are expected to talk with their counterparts in Marion County early next year to iron out the details.