Proposal seeks to reduce youth arrests
Posted on April 02, 2015 12:00 PM EST
On Monday, a Florida House panel showed overwhelming support for a proposal that plans to reduce youth arrests by widening the reach of civil citations.
State Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg said that across Florida, people are realizing that we shouldn’t criminalize, nor should we have knee-jerk reactions and make arrests when there are more appropriate consequences.
Today, civil citation programs are used in 59 of Florida’s 67 counties; the programs give officers an alternative over arresting juveniles.
Under Florida’s current law, officers have the choice of prescribing community service or issuing a civil citation to youth who commit a first-time misdemeanor offense. The proposal under HB 99 would extend the program to juveniles who have been in trouble with the law before.
Under the proposal, officers would have the option of giving a verbal warning, or calling the youth’s parents.
Proposal is Well-Received
The proposal was well-received on Monday by attorneys, social workers, and law enforcement officials – many who by the nature of their work, have dealt directly with the juvenile justice system and its consequences.
According to Nancy Daniels, the public defender for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit, there are many programs that have existed for a long time that are very successful. Daniels said that they have low recidivism rates.
Lobbyist Samantha Padgett said that people should not have to pay the rest of their lives for mistakes they made when they were young. Padgett said that the bill gives “unlimited opportunity” to participate in the civil citation program.
The only member of the panel that voted against the proposal was Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando. Eisnaugle says you can’t have a system that allows kids to never have consequences. He believes that at some point, there has to be an end to the civil citation program.
State Rep. Carlos Trujillo said the bill encourages self-sufficiency. Trujillo pointed out how a criminal record often follows a young person into adulthood. In light of these being misdemeanor offenses, the Miami Republican said the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
Last week, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said that he’s a big believer that law enforcement needs to retain discretion. The sheriffs association supports the bill and is working with its sponsors to push it along.
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