(1) The department shall by rule designate separate institutions and programs for youthful offenders and shall employ and utilize personnel specially qualified by training and experience to operate all such institutions and programs for youthful offenders. Youthful offenders who are at least 14 years of age but who have not yet reached the age of 19 years at the time of reception shall be separated from youthful offenders who are 19 years of age or older, except that if the population of the facilities designated for 14-year-old to 18-year-old youthful offenders exceeds 100 percent of lawful capacity, the department may assign 18-year-old youthful offenders to the 19-24 age group facility.
(2) Youthful offender institutions and programs shall contain only those youthful offenders sentenced as such by a court or classified as such by the department, pursuant to the requirements of subsections (4) and (6), except that under special circumstances select adult offenders may be assigned to youthful offender institutions. Female youthful offenders of all ages may continue to be housed together at those institutions designated by department rule until such time as institutions for female youthful offenders are established or adapted to allow for separation by age and to accommodate all custody classifications.
(3) The department may assign a youthful offender to a facility in the state correctional system which is not designated for the care, custody, control, and supervision of youthful offenders or an age group only in the following circumstances:
(a) If the youthful offender is convicted of a new crime which is a felony under the laws of this state.
(b) If the youthful offender becomes such a serious management or disciplinary problem resulting from serious violations of the rules of the department that his or her original assignment would be detrimental to the interests of the program and to other inmates committed thereto.
(c) If the youthful offender needs medical treatment, health services, or other specialized treatment otherwise not available at the youthful offender facility.
(d) If the department determines that the youthful offender should be transferred outside of the state correctional system, as provided by law, for services not provided by the department.
(e) If bed space is not available in a designated community residential facility, the department may assign a youthful offender to a community residential facility, provided that the youthful offender is separated from other offenders insofar as is practical.
(f) If the youthful offender was originally assigned to a facility designated for 14-year-old to 18-year-old youthful offenders, but subsequently reaches the age of 19 years, the department may retain the youthful offender in the facility if the department determines that it is in the best interest of the youthful offender and the department.
(g) If the department determines that a youthful offender originally assigned to a facility designated for the 19-24 age group is mentally or physically vulnerable by such placement, the department may reassign a youthful offender to a facility designated for the 14-18 age group if the department determines that a reassignment is necessary to protect the safety of the youthful offender or the institution.
(h) If the department determines that a youthful offender originally assigned to a facility designated for the 14-18 age group is disruptive, incorrigible, or uncontrollable, the department may reassign a youthful offender to a facility designated for the 19-24 age group if the department determines that a reassignment would best serve the interests of the youthful offender and the department.
(4) The department shall continuously screen all institutions, facilities, and programs for any inmate who meets the eligibility requirements for youthful offender designation specified in s. 958.04(1)(a) and (c) whose age does not exceed 24 years and whose total length of sentence does not exceed 10 years, and the department may classify and assign as a youthful offender any inmate who meets the criteria of this subsection.
(5) The department shall coordinate all youthful offender assignments or transfers and shall review and maintain access to full and complete documentation and substantiation of all such assignments or transfers of youthful offenders to or from facilities in the state correctional system which are not designated for their care, custody, and control, except assignments or transfers made pursuant to paragraph (3)(c).
(6) The department may assign to a youthful offender facility any inmate, except a capital or life felon, whose age does not exceed 19 years but who does not otherwise meet the criteria of this section, if the department determines that such inmate’s mental or physical vulnerability would substantially or materially jeopardize his or her safety in a nonyouthful offender facility. Assignments made under this subsection shall be included in the department’s annual report.