Juvenile Justice Secretary Eric Hall shares department priorities ahead of 2022 Session

Hall, Eric
New year. New job. New priorities.

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Eric Hall, a new appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis, enters the new year with five priorities, including goals to bolster staff pay and provide more educational opportunities to department youth. 

A former teacher turned education official at the Florida Department of Education, Hall’s desire to increase learning opportunities at DJJ is an unsurprising item on his agenda. Most young people in the juvenile justice system, Hall noted in an interview with Florida Politics, read two to three grade levels below their peers.

Hall hopes to leverage his network of contacts — school superintendents statewide and leaders at the Department of Education — to provide more learning programs. Young people, he suggested, are best served when provided a pathway for upward mobility.

Those pathways will boast more avenues than just the traditional college route, Hall said. Trade schools and other job training programs are also on the radar. 

Hall is the husband of a social worker and the father of two public school students. He is also the son of school teachers.

“What would any of us want for our kids?” Hall asked. “Those are the same things I want for the students that are served in our system. (I want) to make sure that we’re leveraging every single resource to drive toward those goals.”

Improving the department’s relationship with local law enforcement is also on the priority list.

Hall acknowledged that DJJ and police at times may not see eye to eye on all issues. So, among his first acts on the job, Hall reached out to law enforcement leaders across the state, including Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

In June, Chitwood slammed Florida’s juvenile justice system as a “complete failure” and a “disgrace” after two teens released by the department opened fire on at least eight deputies. The duo — a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old — ambushed the deputies four separate times outside a Central Florida home. 

Chitwood and Hall are planning to meet in the near future.

“While I have the opportunity to serve here, (we’re) going to be partnering with our law enforcement to address those barriers that we might see or those gaps that we might see when those situations come up,” Hall said.

Armed with DeSantis’ blessing, Hall is seeking ways to address ongoing recruitment and retention issues within the department. 

DJJ staff, such as Juvenile Detention Officers (JDOs) and Juvenile Probation Officers (JPOs), are among the lowest-paid workers in the state’s law enforcement community. 

The department’s low wages — between $13 to $15 per hour — have long burdened the agency, resulting in a high turnover rate among other issues. Many officers, Hall noted, leave the agency to join other departments with higher pay.

Hall is urging lawmakers to support DeSantis’ proposed budget, which includes a $4 an hour raise for JDOs and JPOs. 

“As other businesses and industries are raising their compensation, we have to make sure that we have a competitive wage so we can get our talent in the door, and then keep our talent there,” Hall said, adding that he would also like to provide more training and educational opportunities for officers, too. 

The same is true for contractors and service providers. They, Hall said, face similar staffing challenges. DeSantis’ budget proposal suggests an additional $25 million for DJJ’s network of providers, many of which Hall said are instrumental in reducing recidivism. 

Not least, Hall wants DJJ to capitalize on data-driven decision-making. By using data points, the department can identify trends and solutions. 

“Let’s use the data, let’s use the information and use that as (a) north star to how we drive everything across the board,” Hall said.

DeSantis appointed Hall to lead DJJ in November. Hall previously served as the first Chancellor for Innovation and Senior Chancellor, a position he was appointed to in 2019 by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

The role oversaw a slew of divisions including K-12 Public Schools, the Florida College System, Career and Adult Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, the Office of Safe Schools and the Office of Early Learning.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn