Trial underway over Polk County juvenile detainees

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A class action lawsuit against the Polk County Sheriff and the agency's treatment of juvenile detainees is going to trial.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of seven juveniles. They allege overly harsh conditions at the jail caused by poor supervision, inadequate rehabilitative programs and an overuse of pepper spray. The jail typically houses 60 to 70 juveniles.

Sheriff Grady Judd has denied the allegations. The Lakeland Ledger ( reports that Judd defends his use of pepper spray as a last resort for juveniles who refuse to obey commands. He credits it with ending confrontations before they turn physical.

The trial is underway in federal court in Tampa. Opening statements were held Monday.