Florida’s Juvenile Justice System Making Changes To Better Benefit Troubled Youth

There is a greater need for change in Florida’s juvenile justice system, beyond the significant strides our state has made in making changes to the system. For many of Jacksonville’s juveniles, the challenges Florida faces in transforming juvenile justice force juveniles to be harmed by a system that is intended to help.

One of the major changes to the Florida Juvenile Justice system is the attempted return to a state Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) supervision model for juveniles returning home from a residential program, eliminating the highly successful Community-Based Intervention Services (CBIS) treatment model that has been implemented statewide for over half a decade. National research, as well as past experience with the JPO supervision model in Florida indicate that using state JPOs to supervise reentry youths is remains an largely ineffective model to prevent further reoffenders reentering the justice system.

The CBIS model, developed by DJJ, applicably combines case management, supervision and treatment, and uses local community organizations to see that the juvenile and their family are appropriately supported. Comparative statistical data shows this model has resulted in 76-92 percent of juveniles (varying somewhat by judicial circuit) being crime free one year after release from the program, compared to the 50-59 percent under the JPO supervision model.

Putting troubled juveniles into ever-more severe and life-shattering punishments that will change their perception of society for the worse goes against everything the juvenile justice system stands for, robbing these youth of opportunities to change their behavior rather than giving them ways of behaving that are more positive. 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 one such 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, juvenile Judges will create an option for sentencing that they feel may be more meaningful and beneficial personally to the child, and perhaps less costly in the long-run. For many, this may be 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 a possible death.

For many, these options may seem extreme; however, the consequences of the alternative, having one’s child sit in juvenile detention, may potentially hinder the child’s ability to change for the better, being a productive member of society who will be able to escape the chains of the legal system.

The key to obtaining a favorable outcome when young children and juveniles face criminal charges is thorough investigation of the circumstance of the offense. Through proper investigation, one’s experienced attorney can determine if the prosecution has satisfactory evidence to establish guilt, and if so, will be able to help the juvenile fashion a sentence which satisfies the requirement for punishment, but is beneficial to the juvenile’s rehabilitation.

Adolescents are involved in juvenile crimes every day. Not every one of those juveniles were intending to hurt anyone and are just teenagers making bad decisions. One in a situation like this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville juvenile crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected.

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: Letters: Florida making progress in reducing juvenile crime, The Palm Beach Post

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