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Juvenile Delinquency in Florida Continues to Decline, DJJ Reports

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Tallahassee, Fla. -- Juvenile delinquency in Florida fell by 10 percent from last year, the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) reported today.

The overall number of youth entering the DJJ system continues to decrease, referrals to the agency from schools are down 11 percent from last year and the number of youth waiting in detention centers for placement in a residential facility is the lowest in DJJ's history. These and other facts are found in DJJ’s 2010-11 Annual Report, released today.

"While it's gratifying to see that the numbers are moving in the right direction, we must continue to work closely with our community partners to create alternatives to detention so youth don't have to enter the juvenile justice system in the first place," said DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters. "We are grateful to our employees, providers and community partners who have all contributed to make Florida a safer place to live, work and play."

Walters said her agency's reform efforts, supported by Gov. Rick Scott, emphasize investments in "front-end services" such as civil citation, diversion programs and community-based treatment. Deeper-end sanctions and secure facilities are reserved for youth who pose a clear risk to public safety.

"We cannot afford the financial or the societal costs of unnecessary juvenile incarceration," said Gov. Scott. "By shifting our focus and our investments to the front end of the system, we will save not only money, but also the lives and futures of the young people in our care."

The state defines juvenile delinquency as any illegal act committed by a youth under the age of 18 who is subsequently referred to DJJ. The drop in delinquency is determined by assessing the number of referrals received by the agency during the fiscal year (FY), which begins on July 1 and ends June 30 of the following year. Fewer than 110,000 delinquency referrals were received in FY 2010-11, the lowest level in more than a decade.

Preliminary figures show the number of youth assigned to residential programs also dropped substantially, from 5,442 in FY 2009-10 to 4,714 in FY 2010-11. Residential services are the most costly category of youth sanctions due to such factors as specialized treatment services and housing expenses for youth, as well as 24-hour staffing.

Final figures on all delinquency categories will be available later this year in the DJJ Delinquency Profile for 2010-11.

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