Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice recently released updated information on the myths vs. facts surrounding girls in the juvenile justice system. While some believe that there is an increase in girls committing delinquent acts and violent offenses, the reality is that the number of girls charged with a felony offense has declined by 38% since 2009. Moreover, the number of girls charged with a violent felony has declined by 45% since 2009. DJJ’s one-page report details additional findings on the prevalence of girls involved in the juvenile justice system.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention also recently released a report on the specialized responses that have been developed to address girls involved in the juvenile justice system. While some outcome data is showing early promise for programs designed to address the specific needs of girls in the juvenile justice system, the report concludes that this is an area in which more research is needed. What is particularly interesting in this report are some of the findings related to differences between girls and boys regarding their pathways to delinquency, offenses committed, and typical judicial processing. This brief report, Specialized Responses for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System, is well worth a read.
Several new laws went into effect on July 1, 2018. The following will be of interest to judges handling delinquency cases.
HB 361 created s. 985.6885, F.S., to specify that state judges, the governor, cabinet members, members of the legislature, state attorneys, public defenders, and certain other authorized people are free to visit juvenile facilities at their pleasure between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
SB 1392 requires state attorneys to develop civil citation/diversion programs in their circuits. The law does not specifically require a member of the judiciary to be a part of the team developing the programs, but the law contemplates participation by “other interested stakeholders” which could potentially include judges. Judges will certainly want to learn about the types of civil citation/diversion programs that will be developed in their circuits.
SB 1552 made several changes to the requirements for detention hearings. Several of the factors that judges formerly used to make a detention determination have been removed from s. 985.35, F.S. The amendments to the detention statute in this bill were made very shortly after the commission looking into revising the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) approved the new DRAI. It is believed that many if not all of the factors removed from the statute have now been incorporated into the new DRAI, and will now simply be a part of the youth’s DRAI score. Besides the changes to detention, the law also requires prolific juvenile offenders (PJOs) who violate probation to be held in secure detention until a detention hearing is held. Lastly, the law changes the name of “nonsecure detention” to “supervised release.”
The Annie E. Casey Foundation just released the 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book. The book uses 16 publicly available indicators of child well-being organized into four domains: Economic, Education, Health, and Family and Community. The Kids Count project is focused on overall child well-being, but one factor that is considered is the number of youth contacts with the juvenile justice system (per 1,000 youth). In the baseline year of 2011/12 that measure was at 30%. For the most recent year 2016/17, youth contacts with the juvenile justice system had dropped to 17.8%. Florida’s investment in prevention, intervention, and treatment is showing tangible results.
The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform has just released a new paper entitled, Transforming Juvenile Justice Systems to Improve Public Safety and Youth Outcomes. This short paper provides six actionable strategies that show how system change is possible through collaboration across branches of government and service systems; dedicated partnerships with funders, advocates, and national experts; and by working together with the youth, families, and community members who have the most to gain from better, smarter, and safer juvenile justice systems.
While the concept of restorative justice is familiar to many, the idea behind restorative practices is much broader. Restorative justice is a responsive reaction, consisting of either formal or informal responses to crime after it takes place. Restorative practices also include the use of informal and formal processes, but broadens the term by placing a significant emphasis on building social capital and strengthening relationships to prevent conflict and proactively develop a sense of community. Restorative practices can help improve communication, understanding, and interactions among different groups of people in all kinds of environments. Skills learned through restorative practices can lead to improved behaviors and more positive and productive relationships. These types of outcomes should be of great interest to schools, the courts, child welfare, group homes, juvenile justice, residential facilities, etc.
A new interagency workgroup has been formed to expand the use of restorative practices and processes across an array of agencies that serve children and youth. The Department of Children and Families convened the workgroup which includes members from the department, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Education, the Office of the State Courts Administrator, Leon County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate’s Office, the City of Tallahassee, and Leon County Delinquency Court. In the kick-off meeting, DCF’s Restorative Practices Specialist presented an overview of what restorative practices are and what DCF is doing across the state to train group home staff on these practices. Workgroup members discussed their understanding of restorative practices and identified what their agencies are already doing to promote and use restorative practices. With the foundation set, the workgroup will next address their vision and goals for moving forward.
For further reading, The Center for Child Welfare has a wealth of information on restorative practices.
Successful School-Justice Partnerships often include restorative practices as well. The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform just published a new report on school-justice partnerships which includes information on the benefits of using restorative justice and other restorative practices.
The majority of youth involved with the juvenile justice system have experienced traumatic events. A recent study of youth in detention found that more than 90 percent had experienced at least one trauma, and more than 55 percent reported being exposed to trauma six or more times. For youth who experience traumatic victimization, the brain and nervous system are altered in ways that increase stress reactivity, anger, and impulsivity while reducing the ability to self-regulate. This puts them at high risk for delinquent behavior, contact with law enforcement, and entry into the juvenile justice system.
-- These statements are from an excellent report titled: Trauma Among Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.
Additional Trauma resources for judges.
To better understand trauma and how to successfully address issues related to trauma in the courtroom, the following resources are essential reading:
Family Court Tool Kit: Trauma and Child Development - developed by the Florida Supreme Court Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court (Link is to the Court Implications section of the tool kit.)
Bench Card for the Trauma-Informed Judge - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges)
10 Things Every Juvenile Court Judge Should Know about Trauma and Delinquency - developed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed Juvenile Justice System - developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
The National Counsel of Juvenile and Family Court Judges held the National Conference on Juvenile Justice in March. The conference offered a wealth of information and innovative practices, including:
- Addressing disproportionality and disparity in the juvenile justice system;
- Understanding Implicit Bias;
- Truancy prevention through the Student and Family Empowerment Program;
- Utilizing community service hours to develop the Pro-Social interests of youth to promote long-term success;
- A thorough research analysis of Dual System Youth;
- The main Juvenile Justice Initiatives states are pursuing; and
- Ten National Juvenile Justice Trends.
Edward Palmer Sr., who presented the Understanding Implicit Bias session noted above, will also be speaking at The 33rd National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community in Jacksonville, Florida. The conference, sponsored by the Office of the Attorney General, is May 30 - June 1, 2018, but Mr. Palmer will be speaking at the preconference on May 29. More information about the conference is available at http://www.preventblackcrime.com/.
Though juveniles use opioids at a much lower rate than adults, overdose death rates among those aged 15–19 are highest for opioids, specifically heroin. CDC report here. Youth who do not use opioids may still be at risk of neglect, physical and emotional trauma, and criminal activity via parents, other family members, or friends who abuse opioids.
Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara J. Pariente addressed the opioid crisis in a recent article on how family court judges can respond to this crisis, available here.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) also recognized that juvenile and family courts are often the initial contact point for opioid abusers and a critical partner in providing substance abuse treatment and support. NCJFCJ has developed some recommended practices and resources for judges, available here.
The Florida Legislature is in session and several bills that address juvenile justice matters are moving through the process. Major issues being addressed include: increasing the age for direct file; making the predisposition report an indispensable prerequisite to commitment which cannot be waived; and expanding civil citation and similar diversion programs. To review complete bills, please go to https://www.flsenate.gov/
A major review and update to the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument (DRAI) screening tool is nearing completion. A final meeting to vote on and approve the new DRAI is scheduled for the end of January. If the new DRAI is approved, implementation should begin in the spring and continue through 2018. Part of the implementation plan for the new DRAI calls for training for judges, law enforcement, probation officers, detention staff, and others who work with the juvenile justice system.
Communities across Florida and throughout the country have found that creating partnerships among courts, schools, law enforcement, state agencies, and service providers is an effective way to keep children in school and out of court, increase graduation rates, and reduce unnecessary referrals to juvenile court. For information on school-justice partnerships and tools for creating a partnership in your circuit, please visit Florida's School-Justice Partnerships.
On a national level, NCJFCJ has recognized the importance of this type of collaboration and they developed a National Resource Center on School-Justice Partnerships.
A few of the important resources available at the resource center include:
Collecting Data and Sharing Information to Improve School-Justice Partnerships
A report on the School Responder Model
The Intersection of Juvenile Courts and Exclusionary School Discipline
NCJFCJ and its partners have developed a new benchcard: Applying Principles of Adolescent Development in Delinquency Proceedings. It outlines key principles and research on adolescent development that judges should consider and integrate at each stage of a child's case. Important judicial considerations and practical guidance is offered to help judges translate those principles into practice in the courtroom with sample questions and colloquies that can be utilized in judicial decision-making and interactions with youth in court. The benchcard is available here.
Florida is working to implement the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) statewide. Stakeholders representing the Department of Juvenile Justice, the judiciary, state attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement, probation, the Department of Children and Families, and school systems recently visited New Jersey to learn from their successful example. Where JDAI has been implemented, it is clear that moving low-risk youth from secure detention into community-based alternative programs ensures public safety and produces better outcomes for youth and their families.
The Department of Juvenile Justice has some excellent JDAI resources here.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation pioneered JDAI and has information here.
The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) held a regional Juvenile Justice Reform Summit in the spring of 2017. States throughout the Southeast sent teams of stakeholders to learn about current juvenile justice issues, identify local needs, and develop action plans.
Issue of significant statewide concern identified by Florida’s team included:
- Identifying and treating youth with mental health needs who are in the juvenile justice system, and
- Education on racial and ethnic bias to reduce disparate treatment of youth in the juvenile justice system.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has an excellent resource section on each of these issues.
Additionally, the Department of Juvenile Justice has a recent statewide report on Disproportionate Minority Contact/Racial Ethnic Disparity.