George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da T⁠i⁠mes-Un⁠i⁠on — Lead Le⁠t⁠⁠t⁠er: D⁠i⁠rec⁠t⁠ f⁠i⁠le aga⁠i⁠ns⁠t⁠ juven⁠i⁠les needs reform

By: Sal Nuzzo / March 13, 2015

Florida Times-Union
“Lead Letter: Direct file against juveniles needs reform”
March 13, 2015
By Sal NuzzoFlorida is consistently leading the nation in job growth, educational achievement, business climate, economic freedom and overall quality of life.There is one measure, however, that should shock Floridians, invoke concern and implore action.Florida prosecutes more children as adults than any other state in the nation. This is a primary result of an abused statute known as “direct file.”Since 1978, Florida law has effectively allowed prosecutors the sole discretion to send children directly into the adult court system.Florida’s direct file statute allows youth as young as 14 to be sentenced to adult sanctions, including prison, with no judicial review or approval.This statute does not reduce crime. Transferring children to the adult criminal justice system makes young offenders more violent.Youth placed in the adult criminal justice system are 34 percent more likely to be rearrested for felonies than youth who had been retained in the juvenile justice system.In each of the past five years, most children transferred to adult court were charged with non-violent offenses, often property crimes.The direct file statute as currently applied carries a significant economic cost to Florida’s taxpayers, to our economy and to this generation of youth who will one day rejoin their communities.We need a process that deters them from a life of crime, not one that shows them the ropes.First, we should recognize there is a difference between children who are accused of non-violent vs. violent offenses.Second, we should understand that diversion programs and restorative justice based in Florida’s juvenile justice system have proven to provide more positive outcomes for Florida’s children.Third, we must place more worth on the economic value on reducing recidivism among youth offenders. To this end, the state should examine whether prosecutors should be the sole arbiters of whether or not a child should be charged and tried as an adult for certain non-violent offenses.We remain hopeful that this session legislators will address this serious topic. It’s time Florida treats our children like children.Article: