Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Workshop aims to keep minority youths out of trouble with juvenile justice system

ST. PETERSBURG — When teenager Nicholas Lindsey was arrested in the murder of Officer David S. Crawford, a statewide network that works with troubled youth made the critical decision to include St. Petersburg in a pilot program designed to address the disproportionate number of minority youth who become entangled in the juvenile justice system.

This Saturday the group will hold a workshop for parents, guardians and middle and high school students to dispense hard facts about gangs, teen court, arrests and detention. Word of the session is being spread by radio, at African-American churches and in community centers.

According to a 2009 Department of Juvenile Justice report, the rate of blacks referred to Florida's juvenile justice system was 2.5 times higher than whites.

Retired juvenile Judge Irene Sullivan describes Saturday's program as a pivotal event.

"I think it's really important, because so many kids, especially of middle school age, and their parents don't realize how easily kids can slip into the juvenile justice system through behavior problems that happen at school, or through hanging out with the wrong kids and being looked at as part of the gang, or staying out very late at night and being thought of as loitering. And in certain areas of town, because they have higher crime and problems that are targeted, kids can get caught up in that targeting,'' said Sullivan, who will speak at the workshop at the Pinellas Job Corps Center.

Organizers of this weekend's five-hour workshop hope it will help break the pattern of what is described in juvenile justice parlance as disproportionate minority contact.

"When you turn on the television, you're tired of seeing the police looking for people who look like you and seeing there are acts of violence, including murder, by people who look like you,'' said Karen Miller, who is African-American and is the associate director for Florida Network of Youth and Family Services, a contractor with DJJ and the organization behind Saturday's program.

"We want to get kids before they get into the juvenile justice system or before they are arrested by law enforcement,'' Miller said.

"We're hoping to impact some choices that children are making by explaining what happens to them when they get involved with the juvenile justice system and what the alternatives are,'' added Pat Gerard, chief operating officer of Family Resources, which has offices in Pinellas Park.

"And I think, for parents, we're hoping to get some information they can use to help steer children in the right direction."

That's a key goal of the workshop, said Barbara Cheives, a consultant hired by the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services to organize the program.

Cheives, praised for her work in Sullivan's book, Raised by the Courts, said it's important that minority parents understand how the juvenile justice system works and learn about diversion and intervention programs.

"The prevention programs that are available to them, our parents don't know about them, so our kids end up in the deep end instead of the front end,'' she said.

"A lot of the parents we're trying to reach are parents who work on Saturday. In some communities, they're just trying to get their basic needs met. They don't have time for things like this."

Teresa Clove, executive director of Thaise Educational and Exposure Tours Inc., which operates out of the Enoch Davis Community Center, is trying to spread word of the event. Her organization, which works primarily with at-risk kids, provides services such as mental health counseling, drug prevention and anger management classes.

"We try to work with the kids to develop them and give them good skills so they don't get into the system,'' she said.

James Myles of Bethel Community Foundation, which offers counseling to children and their families, stuck fliers in Sunday bulletins at Bethel Community Baptist Church, where his nonprofit is located.

Last Saturday, Myles appeared on City Council member Wengay Newton's weekly radio program on WRXB-AM 1590. About 1,800 St. Petersburg juveniles were booked into the Pinellas County detention center in 2010, Newton said this week.

"The last officer was killed by a juvenile,'' he added, referring to 16-year-old Lindsey, accused of killing Crawford on Feb. 21.

"As a village, we have to do a better job.''

Saturday's program will bring out juvenile judges, lawyers, state attorneys, public defenders and St. Petersburg police. They'll talk about difficult topics.

"This is real talk, not scared straight talk, but straight talk,'' said Cheives.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.


Youth Development and Disproportionate Minority Contact Workshop

The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Pinellas Job Corps Center, 500 22nd St. S. Open to middle and high school students, parents, guardians and those who work with youth. There will be displays, giveaways, prizes and a musical guest. Lunch will be provided. Register at or call the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services at (850) 922-4324, Dianne at Family Resources at (727) 521-5202 or Della Abdullah at (727) 505-2501.

Workshop aims to keep minority youths out of trouble with juvenile justice system 06/21/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 3:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. A test the Rays haven't passed

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — I have no idea what to think about the Rays. Not a clue.

    Tampa Bay Rays players celebrate their 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule: Stanley Cup champion Penguins, expansion Golden Knights among the coming attractions

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here are the home games with the most intriguing storylines:

    The champs

    (Oct. 12, Oct. 21)

    The two-time defending champion Penguins make two early trips to Tampa. [AP photo]
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning 2017-18 schedule

    Lightning Strikes

    The Lightning's season schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and there are plenty of must-see matchups coming to Amalie Arena. Here is the full 2017-18 schedule.

    The Lightning's Brayden Point celebrates a goal during a game against the Ottawa Senators in February in Tampa. [AP photo]
  4. Gay, black leaders speak about finding their place


    When Lillian Dunlap moved to Florida at age 52 in 1999 she could finally breathe. The journalism professor from the University of Missouri and the University of Indiana hadn't been able live openly as a gay woman until then. She had considered coming out before but never did.

    Terri Lipsey Scott (standing) welcomed panelists Bob Devin Jones, Desmond Clark, Lillian Dunlap, Trevor Pettiford and Sheree Greer. Moderator Nadine Smith not pictured.
  5. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.