Ads aim to help troubled teens, sex-trafficked kids

Lawmakers, advocates focus on juvenile records law, safe havens for children

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A statewide advocacy campaign launched Thursday in Jacksonville focuses on some serious subjects: the sex trafficking of children and the roadblocks teens face in the future if they're arrested at a young age.

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, along with state Sens. Aaron Bean and Audrey Gibson, hope to convince the Legislature to spend more money on children, specifically young girls.

A series of advertisements will be published in magazines and social media in the coming weeks. One says: "Sex-trafficked children need more than a great law and good intentions." Another says access to juvenile arrest records ultimately shuts doors of opportunities for teenage girls.

The campaign is designed to bring awareness to juvenile records laws and teenagers' rights to confidentiality years after they made a mistake.

"It doesn't really matter that you've had your record expunged and you're trying to straighten out your life, because once you're into the computer system, you're always in the computer system," said Roy Miller, Children's Campaign president.

Marian Suttle's daughter was almost in that position. She said she got in trouble in Iowa and went to jail. Suttle didn't say what the girl's violation was, but she said she's grateful her daughter didn't end up in a detention center.

"Our work is simply about giving second chances," said Lawanda Ravoira, CEO of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

Advocates for girls said they're pushing for changes in legislation that would create more confidentiality. They are also addressing the issue of creating more resources for the victims of sex trafficking.

"When children are victims of trafficking, we do not have safe havens or places for them," Ravoira said. "What we do is penalize the child by holding them in detention because we have no other alternative."

Ravoira said she's also pushing for increasing community-based services for girls with learning disabilities in the juvenile justice system.

"We're seeing restraints happening," Ravoira said. "They are catching more charges in the facility, so they are getting deeper and deeper into the system, because the program is not designed to meet their specialized needs." 

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