Broward County Juveniles Can Get a Second Chance

Florida – like many states in the U.S. – has a jail problem: they’re used too often. As we’ve discussed here in this blog, privatization of parts of the prison system in the U.S. has resulted in economic incentives for the court system to funnel offenders behind bars.
The criminal defense attorneys at Leifert & Leifert know that this is a harsh reality, especially for youths who make poor decisions, which they are prone to do. According to NPR, the vital components of the responsible responsible for decision-making are not even fully developed until the age of 25. Youths all over the country, and especially in Florida, have been tossed into the criminal court system – and often for mistakes not warranting such penalties.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has honorably employed a largely unheard-of Florida state law, the Civil Citation statute. This move by the Sheriff means that Broward youths will now be given second-chances, and that offers of those second-chances won’t be at the discretion of the officer involved – they will be mandatory.

So, what does this mean? Officers now have to offer youths the chance to avoid being arrested and charged with crimes such as shoplifting, trespassing, etc. With the new program, the officer will instead write the youth a ticket. Then, the youth and their parents must agree to participate in some combination of community service programs, counseling, drug treatment, health evaluations, etc., all of which constitute part of the voluntary diversion program.

This new rule, making the offers mandatory, will aim at keeping youths out of jail and out of trouble. There is a common misconception among proponents of the prison industrial complex: if you send someone to jail, they will come out a better, more productive member of society. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Leifert & Leifert know this all too well. The truth is, when a criminal emerges from jail, hardly any employer will take a chance on them. Then, without a job and legitimate source of income, many people are forced to turn back to crime just to get by. Thus, the prison system can actually take youths who might have made one single mistake and turn them into hardened, life-long criminals because of the realities of the prison system and its implications.

Critics of the new program might argue that the diversion program just lets kids off the hook. The program, however, stipulates that failure by the youth to successfully complete the program will result in the youth being arrested and formally charged with the original crime. So while the program may have its detractors, there are far more vocal and meaningful supporters of the Civil Citation statute, including, here in Broward, the Broward County Chiefs of Police, the Broward County School District, and many other groups who see the program as a way to actually help wayward youths.

Sheriff Scott Israel’s program has already proved effective. According to an article published by the South Florida Times, the number of arrests of youths fell from 2012 (under the previous Sheriff) to 2013 (Israel’s first term) by a rate of 23%. Furthermore, so far this year there have been 196 citations issued to youths, compared with only 69 in all of 2012.

Broward’s youths shouldn’t automatically be tossed into a mismanaged criminal justice system. If you (or your child) is charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

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