George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da T⁠i⁠mes-Un⁠i⁠on — Juven⁠i⁠le jus⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ce group ⁠t⁠alks reform, ⁠t⁠akes jabs a⁠t⁠ S⁠t⁠a⁠t⁠e A⁠t⁠⁠t⁠orney dur⁠i⁠ng mee⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ng

By: The James Madison Institute / 2015

Florida Times-Union
“Juvenile justice group talks reform, takes jabs at State Attorney during meeting”
September 22, 2015
By Rhema ThompsonA multi-agency coalition composed of both conservative and liberal juvenile justice advocates is touring the state to push for the newest version of a bill aimed at limiting the terms that can land juveniles in adult court.Tania Galloni, managing attorney with the Florida chapter of Southern Poverty Law Center, joined Jacksonville public defender Matt Shirk and host of others at the Times-Union building Tuesday.The group, made up of several organizations including the Tallahassee-based conservative think tank James Madison Institute, spoke with the Times-Union editorial board about their latest efforts to reform the state’s juvenile justice system – among them a recently filed House bill that limits prosecutors’ ability to charge juvenile offenders as adults in certain circumstances.According to the group, over the last five years about 10,000 children have been charged as adults in the state.“We lead in the number of kids and we’re in the minority in terms of due process,” Galloni said.Currently, Florida is one of 15 states in the country that provides prosecutors with the power to “direct file”- a legal term for charging juveniles as adults – without review by a judge, she said.Jacksonville became a focal point of the issue last year when a Times-Union investigation found more juveniles in the area accept plea deals and subsequently lengthier detentions than anywhere else in the state. Some juveniles, parents and defense attorneys have pointed to a common practice by local prosecutors of compelling them to take plea deals by threatening them with adult charges.The State Attorney’s Office has disputed that claim.“We’re kind of the laughing stock of the state on a number of criminal justice issues,” Shirk said Tuesday.The latest juvenile bill (HB129) filed Sept. 2 follows a similar bill introduced in the House last year which sought to confine the use of direct file to juveniles 14 and older who only committed some of the most egregious crimes, including murder, manslaughter and sexual assault. That bill died in subcommittee last spring.Tuesday advocates told the editorial board they are “cautiously optimistic” about the new legislation, which is essentially an amended version of last year’s bill, pointing to its growing support.“We’ve got the Florida PTA, we’ve got Florida Children’s First. There are just so many groups who when they look at this they say ‘What are we doing to these kids. Enough is enough,’” Galloni said. “That’s the difference from last year.”Article: