George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

2014 – Pol⁠i⁠cy Br⁠i⁠ef – Be⁠t⁠⁠t⁠er Re⁠t⁠urns for a Safer Flor⁠i⁠da

By: The James Madison Institute / 2014

Read the full report: Better Returns for a Safer Florida: Aligning Taxpayer Investments in the Juvenile Justice System with Strategies Proven to Increase Public SafetyExecutive Summary: Holding Youths Accountable at Home Means Safer Communities.
Floridians value safe communities and desire a balanced justice system rooted in common sense. In the last few years Florida leaders have recognized the need for reform in the juvenile justice system and are putting the foundation in place to focus resources on what works.In particular, the overuse of incarceration has proven to be expensive and ineffective, associated with negative individual and societal outcomes like high recidivism rates for nearly all troubled youths, which means more crime. Therefore, the state has rightly committed to moving away from the inappropriate placement of youths in residential facilities.Moreover, research demonstrates that for many youths, keeping them with their families through individualized sanctions, treatment, and services delivered in their communities will make them less likely to reoffend and will vastly improve their
chances for a law-abiding and productive future. Florida can do this at a fraction of the cost of incarcerating them.Even with the state’s advances in practices and reforms, too many Florida youths continue to be incarcerated. While this may occur for a variety of reasons, including local philosophies and practices, in many instances this may also occur simply because the local community lacks the resources to implement the right programs necessary to tackle the challenges of delinquency. Unfortunately, this has a negative impact on the state’s goal of creating safe communities and provides a
poor return on investment of millions in taxpayer dollars—but there is a remedy.It is critically important that dollars entrusted to the state to make the right, strategic decisions that protect our youth and the public at large, do just that. Public policy changes currently being discussed at the state level recognize that when it
comes to handling most youths, incarceration often does more harm than good.Florida, like numerous other states, should develop a program that funds alternatives to incarceration at the local level. By taking dollars now spent by the state on costly, inappropriate, and ineffective incarceration and redeploying those dollars to community-based sanctions and supervision, the state will create a positive incentive for communities to directly participate in the state’s successful path forward in handling troubled kids, and preventing youth crime.