Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Carlton: Keeping kids out of jail blues

The children are brought into court in detention uniforms, blue shirts and khakis, distinguishing them from grownup inmates in baggy bright orange filling other courtrooms not far away.

Most are teenagers, though they have been as young as 8, as young as 6. Some come transported in chains and then unshackled for court. And some days, this must feel like the most hopeless place in the Hillsborough County Courthouse.

From the bench, juvenile delinquency judges listen to stories of how these young inmates got in trouble, sometimes very serious trouble. But sometimes, at school, it's a fight over a long-simmering dispute, a turf war, a shove, an act of disrespect real or imagined. Sometimes it's a kid lashing out at a teacher.

Julianne Holt is the county's longtime public defender, boss of 120 lawyers representing the poor in a system that has taken in 8,076 children 17 and under since 2014. She will tell you she sees two things in these kids: "They don't know how to deal with conflicts, and they don't know how to deal with their emotions."

In lockstep with the school system, she wants to do something here.

Holt was at a School Board student discipline workshop this week talking up some intriguing ideas: Her attorneys would regularly come to schools to meet with kids about staying out of the system. (And maybe about how real it is, she told me later, with photographs to take them inside those stark juvenile facilities.) Her office could arrange for advocates for students facing potential criminal charges. They could work on conflict resolution. And they could work with teachers and administrators on a shared goal of keeping kids out of jail.

"I don't think really the public as a whole … understands the ramifications to a child who gets put into the justice system, even just for a misdemeanor," Holt says. Seasoned and cynical veterans of such courtrooms will tell you that for some, juvenile court is the first stop on the prison pipeline.

Given that public defenders' offices are traditionally overburdened, underfunded, and so, you would think, not inclined to take on more, maybe this is surprising.

But besides the greater good are the practical aspects.

The physical fights, the threats "are the areas where we could probably cut our caseload 40, 50 percent," Holt says of her by-the-way taxpayer-funded office. "So if we can divert them, or if we can save them from becoming another statistic, I think it's a win-win."

Of course, it will take one very big buy-in from teachers and administrators, from prosecutors and police.

It will take lawyers in her office — 10 or 15 of them — working the work into their schedules.

Holt says the possibilities in this have energized her, have made her feel like when she was first elected to this post 23 years ago. Still, she thought, maybe her lawyers would think:

Great. Another thing we get to take on.

After stories about all this hit the paper this week, Holt started getting emails from her employees. One came just as we were talking.

This is awesome, it said, please count me in — apparently a believer in trying to keep students from graduating to baggy bright orange.

Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

Comments
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

Dade City man killed in early morning hit-and-run, police say

A Pasco County man was struck and killed in an apparent hit-and-run early Saturday, police said.Thomas Michael Burdeshaw, 53, who lived on Sundance Drive in Dade City, was hit about 1:45 a.m. on the 36000 block of Blanton Road, police said.Witnesses ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

Police searching for person who shot a man to death in Largo

CLEARWATER — Police are looking for a person who shot and killed a man late Friday at the Melrose on the Bay apartments on Bolesta Road. Ricardo Guzman, 32, called 911 just before midnight and told the operator he had been shot, said Lt. Randall Chan...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

Motorcyclist dies after crash on Memorial Highway

TAMPA — A motorcyclist driving north on Memorial Highway died after he crashed into a guard rail late Friday, police said."The man failed to negotiate a curve in the road and struck a guard rail," said Lt. Brett Owen. "No other vehicle was involved i...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

Shaquem Griffin: ‘I’m not just a feel-good story’

TAMPA — Shaquem Griffin wakes up knowing each day will be better than the last and barely unable to wait until tomorrow."It's just a whirlwind,'' Griffin said.On Thursday, he will walk the red carpet with his family, including his twin brother,...
Updated: 5 hours ago
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

Cops used dead man’s finger in attempt to access his phone. It’s legal, but is it okay?

LARGO — Most people agree what the Largo detectives did at the funeral home was legal.What they diverge on is whether it was appropriate."I just felt so disrespected and violated," said Victoria Armstrong, whose fiance, Linus F. Phillip, was shot and...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

DUNEDIN — After losing a four-run lead thanks to a bad sixth inning, it would have been easy for Clearwater Central Catholic to fold against Dunedin in the final of the 49th annual Dunedin Spring Tournament. But quality relief pitching from Gar...
Published: 04/20/18