Tampa Forum Highlights Much-Needed Reforms for Florida’s Juvenile Justice System
On December 11th, a criminal justice reform forum was held in Tampa, with a focus on changing the way Florida treats juvenile offenders.
Florida currently sends more children to prison than any other state, where many of the punishments they meet do not fit the crime. Just since 2009, more than 14,000 minors have been prosecuted as adults in Florida; some of them as young as 10 years old.
The dark secrets of the state’s juvenile justice system were highlighted in a recent Miami Herald investigation, which described anything but justice being done in these facilities. Children being beaten to death (as instigated by detention officers), incompetent supervision, questionable healthcare, and staff-induced violence were all described as regular occurrences for youth so frequently charged as adults.
Children Charged As Adults in Florida
Many strongly feel that every individual’s circumstances should be taken into account in juvenile cases, where rehabilitation should also be the goal. In fact, according to one survey 60 percent of Floridians indicated that rehabilitation instead of punishment should be the focus of the criminal justice system in general. Yet many juveniles under the age of 18 are charged as adults even though they are minors, arguably robbing them of a second chance.
Civil Citations Instead Of Arrests
The Florida legislature is empowered to take action by handing out civil citations instead of arresting youth, and in 2016, authorities handed out civil citations as an alternative to arrests for first-offense misdemeanors approximately half of the time (or 11,000 civil citations out of 22,000 offenses).
2018 Proposed Legislative Reforms for Juveniles
As a result, a number of reforms have been proposed for the 2018 Florida legislative session, which starts in January. Some of the currently proposed bills for the session beginning in January 2018 include changes that would:
- Relax mandatory minimum drug sentences;
- Increase the minimum threshold to trigger an automatic felony from $300 worth of (property) damage to more than $1,000;
- Ban indicting children under the age of 14 as an adult;
- Allow teens who have already been placed in the system as an adult to request a transfer to juvenile court;
- Require judges to justify if/when they recommend adult punishment for minors; and
- Offer more civil citation and diversion programs in general.
The Very Best In Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you are a Florida juvenile and have been arrested for a minor crime instead of being issued a civil citation (even though you were eligible), you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.
At the Baez Law Firm, we can help. We protect and serve juvenile clients throughout Florida and Massachusetts. Contact us for a free consultation.