Blog: Florida

Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Report: Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)
National advocacy organizations released a report this past week demonstrating the need for advocates of youth of color and advocates of LGBTQ youth to form stronger relationships in order to more effectively address disparities in school discipline, and to work toward dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

Welcome Reclaiming Futures Duval County, Florida

Last week I had the honor of visiting one of our new Reclaiming Futures sites, Duval County Reclaiming Futures, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Led by the Honorable Judge Henry E. Davis, treatment and court staff closely monitor teens to help them break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
The team is working to keep kids in school, in their homes and out of juvenile justice facilities by implementing the following practices:

  • Enhancing and improving access to substance abuse and mental health treatment services for Reclaiming Futures participants and their families.
  • Implementing a comprehensive system of care incorporating various community-based services for families involved in Reclaiming Futures.
  • Inspiring the Duval County community to become involved with youth and families in need.

Florida: Wansley Walters Video on Juvenile Justice Reform

While we need to hold teens accountable for their actions, simply locking them up isn’t effective. Young people in the juvenile justice system need more treatment, better treatment, and support beyond treatment.
I encourage you to watch this brief interview with Wansley Walters, secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. In the video, Secretary Walters shares her views on the importance of early assessments and prescriptive measures in juvenile justice reform. We need to continue this investment to stay on track and reduce crime. "As the resources pull away, the problem starts to creep back in," Walters says.  


Almost 50 Percent Fewer Youth Arrested in Florida Schools; News Roundup

Juvenile Justice Reform

  • Courts making strides in protecting children, vulnerable adults (Lincoln Journal Star)
    Supreme Court Chief Justice Heavican thanked lawmakers for passing legislation last session to enhance the Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project, which is designed to keep children involved in the juvenile justice system from becoming repeat offenders. The project aims to keep children from being jailed while they receive services or treatment.
  • Changes made in laws affecting youths (Midland Daily News)
    It’s been years in the making, but now some big changes have been made to laws pertaining to juveniles in court. “The predominant push is the idea that we need to have laws that are geared to juveniles,” Midland County Probate Judge Dorene S. Allen said. “Not use adult laws for juveniles.”
  • Almost 50 percent fewer youth arrested in Florida schools (Florida Department of Juvenile Justice)
    The number of youth arrested in Florida’s public schools declined 48 percent in the past eight years, from more than 24,000 to 12,520, according to a study released by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The decline corresponds with a downward trend in juvenile delinquency in all categories across the state.
  • Building their future: Youth offenders learn woodworking, life skills in lockup (Waco Tribune-Herald)
    In a small shop building at the state youth lockup in Mart, teenage boys who have gotten into trouble with the law are learning woodworking skills that officials hope can be put to good use for the community.
  • Best Of 2012: Juvenile Justice Desk (Youth Radio)
    In 2012, Youth Radio's Juvenile Justice Desk followed some major changes to youth sentencing in California and the nation.

Florida's Roadmap to Juvenile Justice System Excellence

In this short video, Wansley Walters, Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary, says that Florida is focusing on reducing recidivism and saving taxpayer money.

Their reform efforts center on Walters' "roadmap to system excellence" which includes strategies to prevent and divert at-risk youth, find alternatives to secure detention facilities and allocating resources more effectively.

Juvenile Justice Aftercare Program Shows Success in Florida and Beyond

Youth exiting juvenile justice residential placements are often thrust back into their home communities without a support system leading to high rates of recidivism and likely pushing the youth deeper into the juvenile justice system. Eckerd recognized this missing link and funded Florida’s first aftercare service for youth in the 1990’s. This service was subsequently noticed by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and instituted statewide. Since that time, Eckerd has expanded aftercare services throughout Florida and in other states to include North Carolina and Texas. Eckerd’s Juvenile Justice Aftercare services provide transition and case management support for youth and families prior to and upon exit of residential treatment programs. Millions in cost savings from subsequent residential and detention placements have been realized, and outstanding outcomes have been achieved to include:

  • Social Skills Improvements 85%
  • Mental Health Improvements 89% (NC and TX)
  • Youth Satisfaction 100%
  • Parent Satisfaction 100%
  • Recidivism 16% (FL)

Tampa Targets Juvenile First-Timers

Just six years ago, Hillsborough County and its county seat, Tampa, led the state in the number of juveniles arrested for nonviolent or minor offenses. County commissioners were dismayed by not only the costs this created for their court system, but also for the rap sheets now carried by thousands of juveniles–arrest records can sometimes create obstacles to college education or employment.
To ensure that the juvenile justice system was focused on delinquents in true need of intervention, in 2011 the county created a diversion program specifically for first-time juvenile offenders accused of one of eight low-level misdemeanors.
Eligible juveniles must not have any prior delinquency issues, take responsibility for their actions, and comply with the program’s requirements, which can involve restitution or formal apologies.

Florida: Transferring Teens from Juvenile Court to Adult Court Isn't Reducing Violent Crime Rates

According to recent figures from the Department of Justice, national youth violence rates are currently half what they were in the 90s. In Florida in particular, rates of violent youth crime dropped 57% between 1995 and 2010. And Florida transfers more young offenders to adult criminal court than any other state in the nation.
However, it's important to note that Florida's falling rates of violent juvenile crime are NOT caused by transferring kids to the adult criminal system. 
Dr. Jeffrey Butts has a must-read op-ed in today's Orlando Sentinel, detailing why transferring troubled kids to adult court does not actually reduce violent crime rates. He writes:

If Florida prosecutors were correct [in their belief that trying youth in adult courts has decreased violent crime rates], these variations in the falling rate of juvenile violence would follow a pattern. Namely, we would see the largest crime declines in the states that transferred the most juveniles to criminal court.
Florida's use of transfer (approximately 165 transfers per 100,000 youth population) is nearly double that of its closest competitors, Oregon and Arizona (96 and 84 per 100,000, respectively). Yet, both of those states beat Florida in the crime drop.
In fact, the state with the lowest use of transfer was Ohio at 20 per 100,000, but Ohio's crime decline of 74 percent was the steepest of all six states.
If Florida transfers far more juveniles to criminal court than any other state and yet the state's crime decline is about average, then it is simply wrong to credit criminal-court transfer for recent reductions in youth violence.

Poll Shows Florida Conservatives Support Juvenile Justice Reforms

Florida conservatives support juvenile justice reforms, according to a recent poll by Florida TaxWatch and the Associated Industries of Florida. The poll surveyed 800 registered Florida Republicans who self identified as likely voters.
Among the findings:

  • 83% agree that offenders under the age of 18 should be handled by the juvenile justice system
  • 81% support evidence-driven, community-based alternatives to juvenile prisons

Full findings are available here.

Florida Using Horse Therapy to Rehabilitate Teens [video]

Texas isn't the only state using animals to rehabilitate its juvenile hall residents. For the past 12 weeks, eight young men from the St. Johns Youth Academy in Florida have spent their Friday mornings caring for and learning about horses.

The program was started by college student Jovie Reeves, who grew up riding horses. Jovie joined employees at Haven Horse Ranch in showing the boys how to care for and ride the horses.