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Juvenile Justice

Juvenile arrests in Florida have reached the lowest number in 43 years, according to a report from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. 

Former WMDriver / Flickr

After a year of policy changes designed to decrease rates of juvenile arrests, a report shows Hillsborough County made significant improvements keeping young people out of jail.

Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is never at a loss for words or opinions on criminal behavior. He has recently played a major role in the response to the school shooting in Parkland.

This week on Florida Matters, we talk with Sheriff Judd as part of our ongoing “Newsmaker” series.


A bill allowing certain Florida officials to make announced and unannounced visits to the state’s juvenile justice facilities is now heading to the House floor.

A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature could radically reform the way children are handled in the criminal justice system. The measure would put stricter limits on when and how juveniles can be tried as adults.

Florida is one of 15 states that allow prosecutors to unilaterally decide to charge children as adults. That process is called direct filing.


Florida lawmakers are already moving forward a bill to reform the state’s juvenile justice system. The measure aims to address abuses within the system outlined in a Miami Herald investigative series.

A quartet of Tallahassee law students has been advocating two changes to Florida’s Constitution. The Constitution Revision Commission is now weighing those among hundreds of other public proposals.

Emory Jones just needs to look at his left arm for a reminder of what happened at Avon Park Youth Academy. There is a faint scar in the shape of a snake above his elbow from when an officer beat him.

A pilot project to improve Florida’s juvenile justice system is now running statewide.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and the head of Florida’s Juvenile Justice system are just some of the speakers at this year’s annual conference focusing on preventing crime in the black community.

The Florida Senate is considering more juvenile justice legislation. It’s looking at measures classifying certain kids as prolific offenders and changing sentencing for juveniles who commit felonies.

Juvenile Records Bill Ready For House Floor

Apr 21, 2017

Legislation approved Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee would help juveniles expunge their arrest records after they complete diversion programs for misdemeanor offenses.

A top priority of Florida’s Senate President is now ready for a floor vote. But after some political maneuvering, the bill also contains a controversial amendment targeting the state Supreme Court. The change could challenge lawmakers’ loyalties.

oldgrumpymark / Flickr

There's widespread agreement between lawmakers, law enforcement and child advocates that the state can do more to help juveniles who make stupid mistakes to stay out of trouble and avoid a criminal record that could follow them the rest of their lives.

A couple of juvenile justice-related bills are now moving in the Florida House and Senate.

State Ends Juvenile-Detention Firm Contract

Mar 20, 2016

After years of controversy, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice is ending its relationship with Youth Services International, a for-profit firm with state contracts totaling roughly $90 million to run seven juvenile lockups.

Now, critics of the Sarasota-based company, known as YSI, are looking ahead to the next round of contractors to oversee the facilities.

Several bills aimed at reforming Florida’s juvenile justice system cleared another hurdle in the House Monday.

A bill reforming the way state prosecutors can charge juveniles as adults is starting to move in both chambers of the Florida Legislature.

The Florida Supreme Court has reached a groundbreaking decision about inmates who were sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole for crimes they committed while they were still kids.

The decision makes 2012's Miller v. Alabama apply retroactively. It was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled mandatory life sentences without the opportunity for release were cruel and unusual.

Study: Locking Up Juveniles Makes Them More Likely Adult Criminals

Jun 27, 2014

A new report by a youth advocacy group argues against the widespread U.S. practice of locking up teen offenders --- a practice that has been on the decline in Florida under the state's outgoing juvenile justice chief.

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters, whose last day on the job is Monday, said "Safely Home," a study by the non-profit Youth Advocate Programs, Inc., is consistent with developments at DJJ during her three-and-a-half-year tenure.

Legislature Readying Major Changes to Florida's Juvenile-Justice System

Feb 28, 2014

The Legislature is expected to take up major changes to Florida’s juvenile-justice system during the 2014 session, looking to put more emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation for youthful offenders.

Lawmakers also face the challenge of bringing the state into compliance with U.S. Supreme Court rulings on sentencing guidelines for underage offenders — after three straight years in which they couldn’t agree.

Global outcry is building over the fatal shooting of a K-9 in Palm Beach County. Meanwhile, prosecutors are asking why high-tech tracking did not stop the now-accused juvenile offender before it was too late reports WFLX.