Pilot Project To Improve Florida's Juvenile Justice System Now Statewide

Aug 11, 2017

DJJ education staff preside over the inaugural Pinewood Derby Challenge between students at two of DJJ's residential facilities to design and build cars.
Credit Florida Department of Juvenile Justice facebook

A pilot project to improve Florida’s juvenile justice system is now running statewide.

Since 2011, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has been working with Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform in Washington DC as part of a national initiative to improve the system.

Speaking on Florida Channel’s Florida Face to Face, DJJ Secretary Christy Daly says the Sunshine State was chosen as one of four states to participate in the Juvenile Justice System Improvement Project, known as JJSIP.

“So, this project has really been the catalyst of change in our system,” she said. “What JJSIP does is it really creates a framework of what works and best practices, and really focuses on the use of validated tools, assessments of understanding risk to reoffend and how we can better use the history of kids who have served in the department to ensure that we’re putting them in the right service at the right time, ultimately to have the best outcomes.”

And, Daly adds it’s very data driven.

“We have been able to use data over decades to know if you’ve got a kid who comes in that has this risk to reoffend, they have this type of needs and services—if we give them too much of an intervention, they are more likely to recidivate,” she added. “If we don’t give them enough of an intervention, they’re more likely to recidivate. So, we are able now—through the work that we’ve done with Georgetown—to really hone in and identify through decision-making tools of what types of programs kids need to go into for the best outcome.”

The program started off as a pilot in Pinellas County, but Daly is proud to say years later, it has brought a lot of stakeholders to the table statewide.

“We have now officially rolled out in all 20 circuits—which has been, as you can imagine—a long journey, but it brings together the courts, law enforcement, community providers, our state attorneys, public defenders to really sit down and have those conversations about, ‘what does it look like here in our circuit and how can we strengthen the outcome for kids?’ because that is ultimately, what ensures our public safety,” she continued.

According to Daly, Florida has the largest juvenile justice population in the U.S. And, she says that as well as their data collection system helped in leading Georgetown to choose Florida for this project.

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