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Review: Juvenile Diversion in Florida

Reviewer: Sarah Krantz, Esq.

Article to be Reviewed: Florida Tax Watch Report prepared by a research team under the leadership of Dominic M. Calabro and Robert E. Weissert. Juvenile Pre-Arrest Diversion in Florida August 2016. http://www.floridatrend.com/public/userfiles/news/pdfs/PADiversion16FINAL.pdf.

Summary

The latest Florida TaxWatch

report analyzes the use of juvenile pre-arrest diversion (JPAD) programs in Florida. The report concludes that JPAD programs are effective in reducing recidivism for juvenile offenders and in saving taxpayer money. “JPAD programs are an effective and efficient way to ensure that juvenile offenders are held accountable for their actions without subjecting them, and taxpayers, to the monetary and societal costs of an arrest,” TaxWatch President Dominic Calabro said in a written statement.

Both children and adolescents charged with misdemeanors are eligible for JPAD programs. These programs utilize a number of sanctions centering on providing justice for the victim(s), rehabilitating the juvenile, and reducing recidivism. Such sanctions include restitution for the victim(s), community service, and special treatment programs. The study reports that JPAD currently “exists under in a variety of formats, including, but not limited to teen courts, juvenile arrest avoidance programs, juvenile second chance programs, work-in-lieu-of-arrest (WILA) programs, first offender programs, and juvenile civil citations.”

JPAD programs not only reduce recidivism, but they also deincentivize reoffending in adulthood. Ex-offenders that have a means of employment are 40 to 50 percent less like likely to recidivate than their unemployed counterpart. Additional education can also reduce violent crime by 30 percent and property crime by 20 percent.

The report also notes discrepancies in the eligibility and application of JPAD programs that varies by jurisdiction. While all Florida counties have at least one JPAD option available, not all make use of these programs. “Between April 2015 and March 2016, 21 counties used JPAD for less than 15 percent of eligible juveniles.” This suggests that programs such as “counseling, behavioral health services, urinalysis monitoring, community service, and victim restitution” would better serve arrested youth.

“The report recommends that the Florida Legislature work with existing JPAD programs to create a graduated system of JPAD sanctions with consistent eligibility standards across the state.” The Legislature should work with all programs now under the JPAD umbrella, (civil citation, teen courts, WILA programs, etc.) to determine which level of misdemeanant (first time, second time, third time) each JPAD program would best serve.

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