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Secretary's Introduction

Secretary Walters introduces the roadmap and shares the vision for juvenile justice in Florida.

Secretary Wansley Walters

We at the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) are strategically evaluating and reforming our approach to juvenile justice. We are focusing our practices and services on preventing and diverting youth who do not belong in our system; finding appropriate alternatives to holding them in costly and traumatic secure detention facilities; reducing and redesigning residential bed capacity; and putting our resources where they are most needed. Each of these elements is critical to ensuring we have the right combination of services and sanctions, in the right place, at the right time, as we care for each youth and keep the public safe.

Youth who commit violent acts and are considered an on-going threat to public safety represent a small portion of DJJ youth. They require the most intensive and expensive services. To use resources effectively, efficiently, and strategically, only serious offenders should be placed in secure detention and residential treatment -- the deeper end of DJJ services. Through outcome-based treatment and services, we will strengthen their chance of success and protect public safety.

Half of youth arrested for a delinquent act will not re-offend and should be diverted from DJJ through innovative practices such as Civil Citation. These are youth who made a mistake. Their initial experience with the juvenile justice system is sufficient to deter them from further offenses. Community-based intervention is more effective in diverting these youth from further delinquency without the negative consequences or expense of entering our system.

Adolescents and children routinely “act out” due to issues such as issues at home, poor school performance, peer pressure, and mental and emotional issues. Lack of a support system does not justify their commitment. It is our responsibility to make sure that these youth are given preventative assessments and services so that they have the opportunity to stay delinquency-free. Proactive prevention will not only save millions of taxpayer dollars, it can save the futures of these youth.

Finally, we must have the appropriate capacity at every level to identify needs and services when youth exhibit such poor behavior that they are referred to the juvenile justice system. Each youth is different and our approach to serving them has to be individualized.

Already, Florida’s efforts have yielded many successes and improved outcomes for at-risk and troubled youth. Florida’s DJJ will continue to build stronger youth and families who are connected to, and supported by, their community as it builds a stronger state and a juvenile justice system of excellence for at-risk and delinquent youth.




Wansley Walters