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Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Passes Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee

DJJ priority legislation passes third committee of reference

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Tallahassee -- The Florida Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee has unanimously passed the Department of Juvenile Justice's (DJJ) Juvenile Justice Reform bill (SB 1072), sponsored by Sen. Stephen Wise (R-Jacksonville). This broad and ambitious legislation continues reforming Florida's juvenile justice system by providing greater access to rehabilitative options for troubled children. Among its measures, the legislation diverts children 9 years old and under into more appropriate services in DJJ. It also formalizes an existing specialized Residential program as an option when it is necessary to keep young mothers and their babies together. Last year, the program served 40 girls with infants.

"I thank Senator Wise for helping to lead the effort to get this vital legislation passed," said DJJ Secretary Frank Peterman, Jr. "These reforms will have a huge impact on quality of life for all Floridians by helping troubled children and stopping them from developing into adult criminals. The bill does not incur costs to Florida's taxpayers and, in fact, saves taxpayer funds in some cases."

If enacted into law, SB 1072 will:

  • Encourage law enforcement agencies, school districts, counties, municipalities and DJJ to divert children 9 years old and under and first-time misdemeanor offenders to pre-arrest and post-arrest diversion programs to avoid deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system;
  • Increase awareness and support for victims through restorative justice practices so that a youth offender is able to understand the harm he/she caused;
  • Add appointed committee members to the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) Review Committee. The DRAI is used to determine through a scoring mechanism whether a youth will be placed in a secure detention pending his or her appearance before a judge.
  • Promote diversity among the membership of existing Juvenile Justice Boards and Councils;
  • Formalize services to youth by authorizing the Mothers and Infants Residential Program, which will keep young mothers with their babies while allowing them to fulfill juvenile justice Residential commitment requirements;
  • Clarify existing statute that youth who perform court-ordered community service are covered under state agency liability provisions;
  • Unify DJJ's statutorily required program reports so that legislators will be able to review related program reports at one time.

SB 1072 continues the implementation of the Blueprint Commission's recommendations from its final report published in February 2008. This is DJJ's second attempt to pass legislation to promote the comprehensive improvements to the juvenile justice system since the Commission's final report, Getting Smart About Juvenile Justice.

"I commend the efforts of the Department of Juvenile Justice, Representative Snyder, Representative Ambler and Senator Wise, to push forward this legislation to implement recommendations offered by the Commission, which represented the citizens of Florida," said Frank T. Brogan, who served as Chairman of the Blueprint Commission and now serves as State University System of Florida Chancellor.

The Juvenile Justice Reform Bill's House companion, HB 7181, sponsored by the House Public Safety & Domestic Security Policy Committee and Rep. Kevin Ambler (R-Tampa), will next travel to the House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council.

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