Juvenile Justice Reform: Increasing Prevention and Reducing Arrests

Florida ranks 40th for..Civil Citations: Florida’s Greatest Opportunity for Continued Juvenile Justice Reform

Increasing the utilization rates of civil citation is one of Florida’s most important opportunities for furthering juvenile justice system reform. Arrests hurt kids’ chances for jobs both in the short-term and in the future, and limit access to educational opportunities and scholarships, housing and more. In addition, youth arrested for civil citation-eligible offenses have higher rates of reoffending. Punishing children for youthful misbehavior stresses law and order resources and leads to poor outcomes.

Despite more than doubling in population, Florida had the fewest number of juvenile arrests last fiscal year (64,824) since it began keeping statistics 42 years ago. In fact, there’s been a 24% drop in juvenile arrests over the last five years, as law enforcement agencies are increasingly issuing civil citations and using other diversion programs. In the fiscal year that ended in 2012, only 26% of eligible youths were issued civil citations. That rose to 55% last fiscal year and is continuing to rise.​

Maintain and Strengthen Expungement and Confidentiality of Records for Juveniles

The Children’s Campaign, with a host of partners including local and state elected officials, juvenile justice stakeholders, state attorneys, public defenders and law enforcement organizations made great strides in keeping youthful misdeeds away from the prying public eye and from impacting a child’s future. Florida’s laws now follow the juvenile justice system’s shift away from punitive measures by strengthening the confidentiality of juvenile records and lowering the age that many juvenile records can be expunged. Newly introduced legislation needs to strengthen and support this movement to allow juveniles greater opportunities for jobs, further education, military service and housing.

Direct File: Placing Children in Adult Court for Nonviolent Crimes

Florida currently leads the nation in the number of youth transferred to adult courts (a process known as “direct file”). Most children tried as adults in Florida are charged with nonviolent felony offenses, primarily property and drug crimes or misdemeanors. More than 70% of children convicted in adult courts are sentenced to probation, calling into question whether a more serious adult court transfer was necessary in the first place.

Research shows that transferring youth to adult courts has not been proven to deter crime and in fact, children in adult facilities do not receive the education, rehabilitative services and treatment they need to ensure they do not re-offend as adults. Youth sent to the adult criminal justice system were 34 -77% more likely to be re-arrested for felonies than youth who had been retained in the juvenile justice system.

SupportFlorida ranks 40th for..

  • Increased civil citation utilization rates.
  • Full written documentation for not issuing a civil citation and required supervisory approval: This was a key recommendation of the 2016 Stepping Up for Kids Study supported by a broad coalition of advocacy organizations.
  • Required civil citation/diversion programs in each county: Not all counties in Florida currently offer civil citation and similar diversion programs.
  • Required comprehensive data collection of children transferred to adult court: Understanding the pathways to criminal activity and the groups that are the most impacted can help lay the groundwork for policy change.
  • Reduction of the number of children transferred to adult court: Amend the practice of giving state attorneys the sole discretion on whether to try a child as an adult.
  • A fair review of each child’s case: Elevate judicial review of children who are transferred to adult court.
  • Increased quality assurance (QA) processes in the juvenile justice system: Issues with facility cameras must be fixed, hiring and performance standards of employees must be heightened, and a re-examination of the system of care utilizing high level QA should be started.
  • Limiting the use of secure confinement (residential) to necessary cases: Increase availability and funding for reliable programs and services within local communities that can manage children with certain developmental disabilities, substance abuse issues, or mental illnesses. The middle of DJJ’s service spectrum has suffered from cuts. This exacerbates issues with secure confinement and reduces successful outcomes.
  • Reduction of recidivism rates: Increase round-the-clock intensive service availability and decrease the shifting of funding away from the Department of Juvenile Justice.
  • Increased use of true trauma-informed practices: The current use of restraints and isolation for traumatized children in facilities may serve to only further traumatize children under the care of the Department.
  • Establishing a model that better ensures rehabilitation of juveniles during confinement: A structure that operates as more of a public-private partnership involving advocacy groups would better ensure quality services.
  • Reduction of arbitrary arrests against girls: Girls continue to be confined in large numbers for technical violations of probation, not new offenses. This needs review and reform.


The Children’s Campaign Priority Bill Highlights

What The Children’s Campaign is Saying…Florida ranks 40th for..

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