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.
Make sure to read the full piece here. And thanks to Dr. Butts for shedding light on this important issue.
Liz Wu is a Digital Accounts Manager at Prichard Communications, where she oversees digital outreach for Reclaiming Futures and edits Reclaiming Futures Every Day. Before joining the Prichard team, Liz established the West Coast communications presence for the New America Foundation, where she managed all media relations, event planning and social media outreach for their 6 domestic policy programs. Liz received a B.A. in both Peace and Conflict Studies and German from the University of California at Berkeley. She tweets from @LizSF.
*Photo at top by Flickr user DonkeyHotey
Updated: February 08 2018