The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is shifting its focus: Getting offenders out of detention and putting a priority on prevention and alternative programs. However, many prosecutors are concerned that there are a number of kids in the Department of Juvenile Justice that have serious problems that will not be addressed now, and as a result, will unfortunately be addressed in the future in terms of victims and in terms of jail or prison time.
Juvenile arrests make up just a fraction of those made by police, and they have declined significantly in the past several years. In 2012, police made 3,218 juvenile arrests, less than half the number made in 2007, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The true focus of concern should be the small number of most dangerous offenders, sometimes repeat offenders, who need the most help. Putting some troubled juveniles into ever-more severe and life-shattering punishments will most likely permanently alter their perception of society for the worse, making the end the State is supposedly trying to prevent, inevitable. The juvenile justice system’s purpose is to give these troubled youth opportunities to change their behavior rather than sending them down a certain path of behavioral and psychological issues, s that are more positive.
National research, as well as past experience with the state Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) supervision model in Florida indicate that using state JPOs to supervise reentry youths remains an largely ineffective model to prevent further reoffenders reentering the justice system. Comparative statistical data shows that other models of juvenile supervision, particularly the Community-Based Intervention Services (CBIS) treatment model, indicate 76-92 percent of juveniles (varying somewhat by judicial circuit) were crime free one year after release from the program, compared to the 50-59 percent under the JPO supervision model.
Many states’ emphasis on incarceration and punishment interferes with effective diversionary, treatment, and rehabilitation practices. Most states only rarely implement evidence-based diversionary practices, mental health and substance use treatment, and rehabilitation practices.
In Florida, some juvenile offenders are able to get into a diversionary program known as Pre-trial Intervention (PTI). The PTI program is administered by the State of Florida through the Department of Corrections (DOC). Eligible individuals who enter into a PTI agreement will be required to participate in a supervised program similar to probation, except at the end of the intervention term, if all conditions are successfully completed, the charge will be dismissed.
Many times, in situations like this, a diversionary offer may be the only safety an accused may feel, particularly when the accused is in their youth. Diversionary offers are solely at the discretion of the filing State Attorney. Diversionary programs are only available to those who have no criminal record or at most have a very minor record spread out over a long period of time. An experienced juvenile crimes defense attorney could have the case “diverted” into a program where the accused will may have to participate in a number of different court directed community service hours in exchange for the case not being filed or dropped. For many, this may also mean military school, holding signs on public street corners, speaking at victim’s advocacy events, and even visiting a mortuary room in some extreme cases involving possible death, depending on the severity of the juvenile charge.
Even if one is not eligible for the Pretrial Intervention Program, with the help of an
experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney, one could persuade the Judge to render a much lighter punishment that would involve counseling, house arrest or a probation sentence that would allow the youth to continue their education and move past the charge, rather than face that charge every morning while they are incarcerated, stagnating their future because of something for what is many times a small infraction of the law.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source: Police officer checks zero in on juvenile offenders, Florida-Today.com