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Faith leaders meet, push for civil citation program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Faith leaders gathered Tuesday night, advocating for civil citations as opposed to arrests.

The meeting that included ICARE -- the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment -- included a discussion on how to keep first-time offenders of nonviolent misdemeanors from having a lifelong arrest record.

Members of 38 religious congregations in Duval County make up ICARE in Jacksonville.

One man who spoke during the meeting shared how charges against him were later dropped when a judge realized he was actually trying to break up a fight.

“For 35 years I thought I had a clean record, and after jumping through dozens of bureaucratic hurdles, I finally got it expunged for real,” he said.

In April, State Attorney Melissa Nelson voiced support for the proposal during another virtual meeting with ICARE. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has given the plan a thumbs up.

Andrew Warren, the Hillsborough County state attorney, attended the meeting Tuesday night, saying that a civil citation program is working for young people in his county.

“It has worked. Last year, we had 60% fewer kids arrested than we did in 2016, but we have more work to do,” Warren said.

He wants to continue to expand the civil citation program in his country.

“Civil citations give first time offenders, a second chance,” Warren said. “They avoid the arrest and conviction that can make it harder for kids to join the military, go to college or get a job, and civil citations help break the school to prison pipeline.”


About the Author:

At WJXT for a quarter of a century, Mary Baer anchors the 5, 6 and 10 p.m. news weekdays.