JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Getting rid of programs such as "Scared Straight," in which children get tours of jails to show them where they could end up if they make bad decisions, was among the recommendations by the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.
The committee, which was made up of 23 community members and formed by State Attorney Melissa Nelson to research the best way to keep youth out of the criminal justice system, met over a nearly two-year period and presented its recommendations in a final report on Thursday.
"The committee recommends that the State Attorney’s Office transition services provided through diversion to the Kids Hope Alliance," Nelson said.
Kids Hope Alliance CEO Joseph Pepper said his organization is happy to work even more with Jacksonville’s youth.
"The opportunity to ensure that they become taxpayers, the opportunity for us to divert them from jail and prisons -- these are things that end up allowing and enabling us to ensure that we have positive community members in the society," Pepper said.
Other recommendations in the report include:
- Pursue a funding stream to sustain juvenile justice reforms recommended in the report, such as the children's services tax in Miami-Dade County.
- Eliminate all jail tours, which are referred to as "Scared Straight."
- Keep juveniles away from jails and courtrooms as much as possible.
- When children are arrested, do everything at a juvenile detention center. Currently, when children are arrested, they are processed at the adult jail and then taken to juvenile detention.
Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee Chair Buddy Schultz said incarcerating children is, without a doubt, a pipeline to more crime.
"They have a very difficult time erasing it throughout the rest of their lives," Schultz said. "So we’re hopeful, with these suggestions and recommendations, we can keep people out of the system."
Nelson said the next step is forming a transition committee. She said she hopes to see results a year from now.