Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Tampa forum focuses on reforming Florida’s juvenile justice system

TAMPA — Changing the way Florida treats juvenile offenders was the focus of Monday night’s forum on criminal justice reform.

"We send more children to adult prison than any other state," said Raymer Maguire IV, manager of the ACLU’s Florida Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform, which sponsored the event.

Many punishments that inmates receive, Maguire said, "often don’t fit the crime."

More than 50 activists, lawyers, students and residents attended the forum at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Complex.

The conversation started with the reforms proposed for the 2018 Florida legislative session, which starts Jan. 9. Then it turned to the effects of the criminal justice system on juveniles younger than 18.

"An individual’s circumstances should be a key determinant in the consequences, and rehabilitation should be the core focus," said activist Melissa Miller, who became a felon at the age of 17 and recently had her rights restored.

Miller was just one of thousands of juveniles across Florida charged as adults before they turn 18. She said that Florida is in need of a system that "values second chances."

The forum offered these statistics: Since 2009, more than 14,000 children, some as young as 10, have been prosecuted as adults in Florida. From 2015 to 2016, it was more than 1,200.

Maguire said that in 2016, out of about 22,000 offenses that could have ended in arrest, authorities instead handed out about 11,000 civil citations, an alternative sanction for first-offense misdemeanors.

Handing out civil citations is an example of what the Florida Legislature can do to alleviate the problem. State Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he is "very optimistic" about the bills proposed for the 2018 session. He is one of two Democrats on the Florida Senate’s criminal justice committee.

"It’s no longer just a Democratic issue," he said. "It’s a great nonpartisan issue this year."

Rouson said the bills being crafted include ideas such as relaxing mandatory minimum drug sentences; increasing the minimum threshold for an automatic felony from $300 worth of property or damage to more than $1000; and more civil citation and diversion programs. Other proposed bills would ban indicting children younger than 14 as an adult; allowing teens already in the adult system to request a transfer to juvenile court; and requiring judges to justify recommending adult punishments for children.

Right on Crime, a conservative advocacy group, released results from an October survey: 60 percent of Floridians said rehabilitation should be the focus of the criminal justice system over punishment. The survey was of 800 registered voters.

Former Tampa police Officer Orlando Gudes said sending kids into the juvenile criminal justice system without guidance or training will most likely "go back to their old ways."

"You have young people that are going into the system that are already lost and then they’re just sitting there still lost, and you let them go, and they come back lost," Gudes said. "What have they learned? Who’s mentored them to do anything? What skills do they have to do anything?"

Comments
Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

A Weeki Wachee man faces drug charges after deputies said a search of his home Wednesday turned up nearly three pounds of marijuana, more than three pounds of hashish wax and more than 3,000 hashish oil cartridges for vape pens.Devin Alexander Volkes...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

ST. PETERSBURG — Three police lieutenants falsified records about where they were during work hours, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department — a severe violation of ethics for three leaders on the agency’s day shift.The lieutenants claimed ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Pasco deputies safely locate missing Holiday autistic teen

An autistic boy, who went missing after walking out of his Holiday home on Wednesday night, has been safely located.Jordan Webb, 16, left his home around 11 p.m., according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.He was safely located on Thursday mornin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pastor took out an active shooter and expertly treated the wounded, all after delivering his Sunday sermon

Pastor took out an active shooter and expertly treated the wounded, all after delivering his Sunday sermon

On Sunday morning, David George, pastor of the Oakville, Washington, Assembly of God Church, delivered his sermon as he does every Sunday. The subject, on Father’s Day, was "The Value of MENtoring," about how much difference an individual can make in...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership.Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, of Pompan...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Brandon man held on $750,000 bail, accused of 100 counts of child pornography

Brandon man held on $750,000 bail, accused of 100 counts of child pornography

A Brandon man has been charged with 100 counts of possession of child pornography after deputies discovered more than 100 images of child pornography on his computer, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Troi Amacher, 29, was arreste...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

Police: Couple leased someone else’s home to 15 families at same time

LARGO — Vanessa Rodriguez thought she found the right house for her three kids, in the right neighborhood, for the right rent. She signed the lease for April 30, sent a $2,300 money order and planned to move in June 1.Then the delays started. She sai...
Updated: 8 hours ago
15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

15 arrested in Hillsborough construction fraud sting, one for the eighth time

TAMPA — The contractors arriving at the Brandon home thought they were meeting with a potential customer. They were wrong.In fact, the would-be clients were undercover detectives and the contractors, lacking a license to ply their trade, left the hom...
Published: 06/20/18
St. Pete police investigating social media threat against Pride event

St. Pete police investigating social media threat against Pride event

ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating a threat against St. Pete Pride weekend based on a social media comment left on a Tampa Bay Times story.A Facebook commenter used an alias to post the threat on a story about a pop-up gay club planned for the...
Published: 06/20/18
Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

Driver in fatal Tampa hit-and-run turns himself in

TAMPA — The driver who was sought in a fatal hit-and-run on Sunday night has turned himself in.Police say Roger Herelle, 33, told detectives Wednesday he was involved in the crash that killed Sally Ann McClellan Webb, 58.Police had had been seeking t...
Published: 06/20/18