As noted in a recent St. Petersburgh Times article, Florida has the highest rate in the nation of locking up children for life even when the crime did not result in death. The state also transfers more children to the adult prison system and tries more juveniles as adults. At its highest point in the mid-nineties, Florida had around eight thousand transfers.
Burglary was the crime that most commonly got juvenile offenders into the adult justice system. Florida is among the 15 states that give prosecutors “direct file,” that is, the ability to put juveniles into adult court at their discretion. Florida statutes dictate that for certain violent crimes, like murder, prosecutors must direct file or seek indictment. Aside from those cases, prosecutors generally look at the defendant’s circumstances, particularly when they are a repeat offender, to determine if they should be charged as adults.
Despite high crime rates in the 1990’s, Miami Dade County is now seen as a national model for effective juvenile justice, because the county focuses on getting services for first-time offenders based on needs rather than their crimes.
Source: Florida leads nation in locking up kids in adult jails, TampaBay.com, November 12, 2009
Contact a South Florida juvenile defense lawyer at Leifert & Leifert if your child has been arrested and charged with a crime.