The high-profile national advocacy organization Campaign for Youth Justice has singled out Florida’s criminal justice system as choosing to adjudicate more cases involving teen defendants in adult criminal courts than any other state’s justice system. It has deemed Florida’s aggressive approach to be a “clear outlier” among states who charge youths as adults for a variety ofjuvenile offenses.
Florida legislators have attempted on several occasions to pass meaningful juvenile sentencing reform legislation without any success. However, the spotlight on Florida’s approach will likely inspire lawmakers to push through reform efforts with renewed vigor.
Among the most pressing reasons to reform the system are both consequences for juvenile offenders and consequences for the public. According to the policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice, more than one in three juveniles who are sentenced to incarceration within the adult system become more likely to reoffend after release than they would be had they not be incarcerated in the adult system.
Not only does incarcerating juveniles in an adult system potentially harm juveniles in a number of ways, it makes them more likely to commit crimes in the future. As a result, this approach neither helps the offenders nor the public. Though some progress has been made in reducing the number of juvenile offenders who are trapped in the adult system over the past few years, the actions taken so far have been inadequate in proportion to the problem at hand. It is critical that the Florida legislature moves to revise this approach urgently and adequately.
Source: Sunshine State News, “Florida Struggles to Craft Juvenile Sentencing Policy,” Margie Menzel, Oct. 16, 2013