George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

TCPalm — Eve Samples: One way Flor⁠i⁠da can save money and become a safer s⁠t⁠a⁠t⁠e

By: Guest Author / 2015

“Eve Samples: One way Florida can save money and become a safer state”
By Eve Samples
December 4, 2015Florida has a problem.It’s a money problem. It’s a safety problem.There’s a way to fix it: Stop treating so many children as adult criminals.Florida is one of 14 states that gives prosecutors broad discretion to move juvenile cases to adult court. Worse, Florida is one of four states that don’t permit judges to review those decisions.As a result, more young people serve time in adult prisons or jails. Over the past five years, more than 10,000 children in Florida have been sent to adult court, most for nonviolent offenses.We, the taxpayers, pay more in the long run.Youth who are sentenced as adults are 34 percent more likely to end up back in the system than those sentenced for similar crimes in juvenile court.”If we’re looking at rehabilitating a kid — versus simply housing them and teaching them how to be a better criminal — we say the economics make sense to rehabilitate them and make them a more productive citizen,” said Sal Nuzzo, vice president of policy at The James Madison Institute.The James Madison Institute advocates for limited government and constitutional protections. On this issue, it has found unlikely allies: the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Project on Accountable Justice at Florida State University.Because prosecutors are given such sweeping authority, the rates at which juveniles are treated as adults varies by geography. Statewide, 6.6 percent of youth accused of felony charges are transferred to adult court. The rate is 7.3 percent in the 19th Judicial Circuit, which covers Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties, and 11.9 percent in Palm Beach County.”A 15- or 16-year-old kid is alleged to commit a crime, and where that kid lives determines whether that child is charged as an adult or charged as a juvenile,” Nuzzo explained.Last year, Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, unsuccessfully pushed a bill that would have limited prosecutors’ authority to move juvenile cases to adult court. This year, James Madison Institute, Southern Poverty Law Center and others are trying again. Their reforms would limit prosecutors’ authority in many cases (not murder or manslaughter) and would allow judges more input.This isn’t about letting youth offenders off the hook. It’s a matter of punishing — and rehabilitating — in an age-appropriate manner, said Deb Brodsky, director of FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice.”It’s a question of what we want as a result, as a society,” Brodsky said. “Do want somebody worse to come back into our neighborhood, or do we want someone better?”Eve Samples is opinion and audience engagement editor for Treasure Coast Newspapers. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or Follow her on Twitter @EveSamples.Article: