Bill Reforming Florida's Juvenile Justice System Has Some Calling For More Reform

Feb 21, 2014

A bill aiming to reform Florida’s juvenile justice system recently won unanimous support during its first Senate hearing. But, some say the measure could still do more.

Fleming Island Republican Senator Rob Bradley’s bill aims to rewrite Florida law that governs juvenile justice to focus on ways to help the state’s delinquent kids. Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters says it’s the first time in more than a decade there’s been a revision, and she’s on board.

“Some of the significant things that this large bill will be doing is it creates an individual statute to place importance on prevention services. It allows for youth who have multiple arrests in a short period of time to be held in secure detention, regardless of the level of the offense, and requires victim notification for delinquents accused of certain crimes who escape or are released from a detention residential facility,” said Walters.

Jacksonville Democratic Senator Audrey Gibson says as lawmakers continue down this path, they need to keep in mind that children are not adults.

“And, so, I would just like for us to address direct commitments, make sure that State Attorneys offices recognize the money the Legislature has put into evaluative processes for young people to try and reduce the risk of them re-offending,” said Gibson.

James Madison Institute President and CEO Bob McClure, representing a coalition of groups, says while he too applauds the effort so far, more can be done.

“We feel it important to codify the principles and practices borne out by research in Florida’s juvenile justice program that saves money and ensures positive outcomes for children.”

According to a recent letter sent to Secretary Walters, the groups hoping for more revisions want juvenile delinquency cases handled within the juvenile justice system—not adult courts—and want children's records kept confidential so juvenile offenses don’t hinder a child’s future.

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