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Florida Department of Juvenile Justice: Almost 50 percent fewer youth arrested in Florida schools

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 7, 2013 

CONTACT
C.J. Drake
(850) 921-5905
cj.drake@djj.state.fl.us

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The number of youth arrested in Florida’s public schools declined 48 percent in the past eight years, from more than 24,000 to 12,520, according to a study released today by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The decline corresponds with a downward trend in juvenile delinquency in all categories across the state.

Noting that most of the arrests were for misdemeanors, DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters urged the expansion of alternatives for youth who would benefit from intervention services rather than arrest.

“While these numbers continue to move in the right direction, there is much work to be done to reduce unnecessary arrests in our schools,” said Walters. “Misdemeanors accounted for 67 percent of all school-related arrests and 51 percent of schoolchildren were arrested last year for their first offense. Youth who act up at school should not be referred to DJJ for ‘punishment,’ forcing them to enter the juvenile justice system needlessly.”

Walters encouraged the use of civil citation as an alternative to arrest. With civil citation, youth who commit a misdemeanor for the first time can avoid a criminal record if they complete intervention services.

Below are other highlights of the study, covering fiscal years (FY) 2004-05 to 2011-12:

  • Misdemeanors accounted for 67 percent of all school‐related arrests.
  • First-time delinquents accounted for 51 percent of school-related arrests during FY 2011-12, down seven percent from 58 percent last year.
  • Drug and weapon offenses accounted for 27 percent of all school‐related arrests.
  • Misdemeanor assault and battery and disorderly conduct violations accounted for 39 percent of all school‐related arrests (including misdemeanor drug charges increases this to 56 percent).
  • School-related arrests that were ultimately dismissed, not filed or diverted totaled 65 percent during FY 2011-12.

“This study reflects my commitment to improve accountability and transparency and help DJJ become a more data-driven organization, with measurable performance and outcomes,” said Walters. “In fact, last year we launched a new interactive delinquency profile that is far more user friendly and allows the public easier and faster access to data.”

Walters said data and research are also driving forces behind DJJ’s Roadmap to System Excellence, a comprehensive effort to strategically reform how juvenile justice is administered in Florida.

“Consistent with the Roadmap’s approach, DJJ will continue to partner with teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and law enforcement to educate these stakeholders about effective alternatives to arrest, especially civil citation and other similar diversion programs such as teen court and drug courts,” said Walters.

Click here for the complete schools delinquency report. For DJJ’s research and data webpage, click here.

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The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) strives to increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency, strengthening families and turning around the lives of troubled youth. To learn more, visit www.djj.state.fl.us and follow us on www.twitter.com/fladjj, www.facebook.com/fladjj and http://www.youtube.com/FLDJJ.


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