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Florida Embarks on Juvenile Justice Reform

Budget Invests More in Keeping Youth Out of System

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Tallahassee, Fla. -- Under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, Florida is embarking on a new strategic direction for treating youth in its juvenile justice system. This direction, supported by a vast amount of research and expert testimony, affirm that youth at low risk to reoffend are better served in their home communities.

The budget for juvenile justice signed today by Gov. Scott supports this strategy by increasing resources in front-end services (prevention, community based services, improved assessment, electronic monitoring) and reducing the emphasis on residential and detention services, all within a more streamlined and effective organizational structure.

"This is a profound shift in how our agency has historically fulfilled its mission and aligns more closely with the strategic direction required for juvenile justice reform," said Wansley Walters, secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). "Reforming our residential services to comply with these best practices should lead to improved long-term outcomes for the youth we serve."

This shift also requires a reduction and realignment of resources. The FY 2011-12 budget reduces DJJ funding by $67 million, an 11 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. Implementing these changes in the budget also requires the elimination of approximately 600 full-time positions – about 500 of which are vacant – throughout DJJ by June 30, 2011.

"Doing more with less is a common challenge faced by all employers in this difficult economy," said Walters. "I am committed to implementing these changes – especially their effect on staff – with efficiency, sensitivity and without compromising our mission. We will do everything possible to assist those whose positions will no longer be funded, including engaging our Workforce Transition Team and other state agencies to identify and pursue other employment options."

The following DJJ facilities will be closed to meet reductions mandated by the budget (except for facilities in DeSoto County, the other four will close by June 30).

  • Facilities in DeSoto County will close sometime this summer but not by June 30 (exact date to be determined). In the budget it sent to the Governor, the Legislature specifically identified the DeSoto operation for closure to meet the budgetary reduction in residential services.
  • North Florida Youth Development Center in Marianna (also known as the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys). DJJ is collaborating with other state agencies to determine potential uses for the facility after the agency leaves.
  • Hillsborough Juvenile Detention Center (East) in Tampa
  • Osceola Juvenile Detention Center in Kissimmee (this facility and Hillsborough were specifically identified by the Legislature for closure to meet the budgetary reduction in detention services)
  • Seminole Juvenile Detention Center in Sanford

The positions in DeSoto County and Marianna are in addition to the approximately 600 that will be phased out by June 30. The total reduction in DJJ positions required by the budget in all facilities and functions amounts to 1,229, about 500 of which are vacant.

"We will implement an orderly and well-managed transition plan for the closing of these facilities to meet the needs of the youth served by them, which will also involve the collaboration of our state operated and provider partners," said Walters. "And we will do everything possible to assist affected staff, who will also receive individual letters formally notifying them of the impact on their positions and explaining their options."

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