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.
In the program’s first year of operation, 688 juveniles entered the program, and 626—or 91 percent—successfully completed the program, wiping their slate clean.
While further fine-tuning of the program is necessary, Hillsborough County has taken the first step towards halting the cycle of delinquency and targeting justice system resources to more serious juvenile offenders.
The post above is reprinted with permission from the blog of Right on Crime, a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a research institute in Austin, TX.
Jeanette Moll is a juvenile justice policy analyst in the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Prior to joining TPPF, she served as a legislative aide in the Wisconsin Legislature, where she dealt with various policy issues, media affairs, and constituent outreach. Moll earned a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She then earned a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, where she served on the board of the Texas Review of Litigation and interned with a federal bankruptcy judge, a Texas appellate court judge, and a central Texas law office.
*Photo at top by Flickr user Tim Ellis
Updated: February 08 2018