For many years Florida has had the notorious distinction of leading the country in youth arrest rates. Footage of an Orlando School Resource Officer arresting a 5-year-old child as she cried to be given a second chance only illustrated a long-standing problem.
Black youth comprise 50% of all arrests even though they are 17% of the population is Black.– Juvenile Justice Information System
The Florida State Legislature has taken steps to fix this problem by creating the Juvenile Civil Citation Program (a non-arrest program for children who commit a first-time misdemeanor). Yet, many law enforcement leaders are failing to hold law enforcement officers accountable to use this program to reduce excessive arrests of children for minor, non-violent offenses.
While there has been some improvement over the last five years only 60-64% of eligible children have received access to a civil citation in Florida.
Furthermore, during the last year, over 5,000 eligible children were not offered a civil citation. On July 9th , over 460 faith leaders across Florida called on all local law enforcement leaders to ensure that at least 80% of eligible children get access to civil citations. “Too many children are being branded for life with criminal records for minor offenses,” says Rev. Bernice Powell-Jackson of First United Church of Tampa. “It must end now.”
On July 9 th State Attorney RJ Larizza announced changes he will make to the civil citation process in the Circuit that includes Volusia County to ensure that at least 80% of eligible children get access.
Senator Brandes, who sponsored SB 1392 that became law in 2018 to expand access to civil citation, shared his leadership on this issue along with other business and faith leaders including Archbishop Thomas Wenski (Archdiocese of Miami), Bishop Adam Richardson (AME 11 th Episcopal District) and Rev. Dr. Bartholomew Banks (State president of Progressive Missionary Baptist Association.)
This event was organized by 11 independent organizations that make up the DART Florida Criminal Justice Collaborative, including PACT (People Acting for Community Together) here in Miami.