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State Legislators Pushing Major Juvenile Justice Reform

December 5th, 2017 by Jake Stofan

Florida prosecutes more children as adults than any other state, but new Legislation would reform he way the state handles non-violent offenses committed by minors.

 

 

Miguel Rodriguez was sentenced as an adult for breaking into a home at the age of 15.

 

“We thought this abandoned house was abandoned and nobody was going to be hurt by what we were doing,” said Rodriguez.

After breaking his parole at the age of 21, he was sent to prison for three years.

 

“I was arrested for a technical violation where I was at work past curfew,” said Rodriguez.

Since 2009 14,000 kids like Miguel, some as young as 10-years-old, have been indicted as adults in Florida.

The new legislation would prohibit children under 14 from being prosecuted as adults for non-violent crimes. It would also take away the power of prosecutors to directly send 14 and 15-year-olds to adult court.

 

“Kids are going to make mistakes,” said PTA Committee Member Dawn Steward. “Should they pay for the rest of their life because of a non-violent crime or a non-violent issue?”

The Campaign for Youth Justice found Minors held in adult prisons are 36 times more likely to commit suicide compared to those in juvenile detention centers.

A study found 80% of Floridians believe juveniles convicted of a crime as an adult should serve their time in juvy until they turn 18.

The proposal would require juveniles serving in adult prisons be segregated from adult prisoners.

Senate Sponsor Bobby Powell says lowering the amount of minors prosecuted as adults will also help the economy.

 

“It definitely is a blemish on their record and makes it more difficult for them to get a job,” said Powell.

The Legislation would also prevent children from losing their right to vote as a result of being prosecuted as an adult.

The proposal also gives judges more say in prosecuting children as adults and require them to justify why adult penalties are necessary when a minor is given an adult sentence.

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