Public Forum Will Discuss Florida Criminal Justice Reform


Tallahassee, FL – The Project on Accountable Justice (PAJ), an organization housed within the Florida State University College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (COSSPP), is bringing together a number of groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the James Madison Institute for a free public forum to discuss the future of criminal justice reform in Florida.

The forum, “Florida Criminal Justice Reform: 2017 and Beyond,” also features representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Reason Foundation, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, COSSPP’s Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, Measures for Justice, the Pretrial Justice Institute and others for sessions on such topics as the outlook for reform measures, and new forms of accountability and measurability. Vikrant Reddy, senior research fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, will deliver the keynote address.

The event, which is free and open to the public, takes place:

Friday, March 3, 2017
8:30 a.m. – Noon
Augustus Turnbull Florida State Conference Center, Room 103
555 W. Pensacola St., Tallahassee

With the U.S. being the world’s largest jailer, there is a growing consensus that housing more prisoners than any other free nation in the world (both in terms of actual number and in incarceration rate) comes at a great cost — both financial and human. According to a survey conducted last fall by the Charles Koch Institute and the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, an overwhelming majority of Floridians support reforms to the state’s criminal justice system.

Florida has an incarceration rate 24 percent higher than the U.S. average, the result of which is that, on any given day, more than 150,000 people are locked inside the state’s jails and prisons. Moreover, Florida spends nearly $3 billion annually on its Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice, the bulk of that on incarceration. Notes PAJ Chairman, former Florida Attorney General Richard Doran, “Our state policy makers are considering many proposals to reduce crime, cut costs and ensure that we have the right forms of accountability in place to know that we continue to head in the direction of a safer Florida. With public support for criminal justice reform so strong, it’s an excellent opportunity to gather and discuss the potential for a more modern and rational Florida criminal justice system.”

Many proposals for reform are expected to surface during the 2017 legislative session, and PAJ’s goal is to educate the public about the opportunities to turn Florida from a trajectory of expensive and outmoded correctional and community mental and behavioral health practices to stopping victimization, turning lives around, rebuilding families, saving taxpayer dollars and, ultimately, to enhancing safety and vitality in communities across our country. “Florida, as one of the largest and most visible states in the country, can serve as an example for dozens of states that are trying to build better criminal justice systems that keep Americans safe, hold offenders accountable, and advance human dignity,” said Reddy. “The Project on Accountable Justice and other groups work hard to educate the public and policy-makers about how to develop these criminal justice systems in a manner that is fiscally responsible, here in Florida and beyond.”


Requiring Juvenile Civil Citations in Florida

Report demonstrates proposed legislation requiring juvenile civil citations for minor offenses would benefit public safety, youth and taxpayers.

ST. PETERSBURG, FL— A new report analyzing the impact of a proposed bill to reduce arrests for common youth misbehavior finds that unless juvenile civil citations are required per the proposed legislation there will be an estimated 14,000 arrests of Florida youth for common youth misbehavior for FY 2016-2017 and FY 2017-2018, including 6,000 black youth.

The report – “Requiring Juvenile Civil Citations in Florida” – was authored by one of Florida’s top juvenile civil citation experts, and endorsed by national and state juvenile justice and children’s organizations. The purpose of the report, which takes no position on the legislation, is to inform data-driven decision-making by legislators. (see full report at

Juvenile civil citations are an alternative to arrest for common youth misbehavior.  The proposed legislation – Senate Bill 196 – would require law enforcement to issue civil citations for first-time offenders with 11 common youth misbehaviors, like underage drinking and petit theft. “Requiring Juvenile Civil Citations in Florida” leaves for legislators to determine how best to increase civil citation utilization, whether through a law enforcement requirement or other approaches outlined in the report, which recommends funding.

“The proposed legislation is a result of the underutilization of juvenile civil citations by most counties, school districts and law enforcement agencies, -- jurisdictions not utilizing civil citations in at least a moderate 75% of all instances,” said author Dewey Caruthers, president of The Caruthers Institute (CI), a St. Petersburg think tank that conducts ongoing research on the issue. CI is formerly dewey & associates. Caruthers also authors the annual study “Stepping Up: Florida’s Top Juvenile Civil Citations,” in its third year.

This underutilization is in spite of the data that clearly shows juvenile civil citations in lieu of arrests have positive benefits on public safety, youth outcomes and taxpayer spending -- with arrests having detrimental effects in those areas, according to Caruthers, who noted that many of those underutilizing civil citations are not taking steps to increase utilization.

The report shows juvenile civil citation utilization will increase more rapidly, and the numbers of arrests reduced more quickly, if law enforcement is required to issue civil citations for the proposed 11 offenses for first-time offenders,” Caruthers said. “We study this issue weekly and we can find no data that shows arrests for common youth misbehavior are a good idea; yet removing law enforcement discretion, even only for first-time offenders with a small number of minor offenses, is a drastic move that needs significant consideration,” Caruthers said.

“Juvenile civil citations should be the presumptive norm for law enforcement throughout Florida, with arrests of juveniles only in rare and exceptional circumstances,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, who noted this was a recommendation from the Stepping Up study 2016 that could be encouraged through training and funding on local levels.

Included in the proposed SB196 is the provision if law enforcement does make an arrest for certain minor infractions they should be required to provide documented justification for the arrest, which was a recommendation from a previous Stepping Up study.

Other key aspects of the “Requiring Juvenile Civil Citations in Florida” report:

  • The report provides data for two scenarios: The impact on public safety, youth and taxpayers if Legislators require juvenile civil citations; and the impact in those areas if the Legislature does not require the use of civil citations as an alternative to arrests.
  • The report recommends funding for local civil citation efforts. From the report: “Regardless of whether the Legislature requires juvenile civil citations for enumerated minor offenses, funding should be provided to incentivize county programs, school districts and law enforcement agencies to make civil citations the presumptive norm by law enforcement for all eligible offenses -- while maintaining needed law enforcement discretion.”
  • The report suggests that the proposed legislation would reduce geographical injustice, which currently occurs because the use of juvenile civil citations is voluntary. This means common youth misbehaviors eligible for civil citations can vary per county, per city and per law enforcement agency.
  • The report shows the statewide Relative Rate Index (RRI) which measures the racial disparity in arrests of juveniles. According to the new report, for FY 2014-2015 was 2.27, which means that for every white youth arrested for a civil citation-eligible offense there are 2.27 black youth arrested. There were 10 counties with an RRI less than the state average, which does not include those counties that did not utilize civil citation. Additionally, there were 14 counties with a Relative Rate Index above 4.0, with one county as high as 25.1.

Organizations endorsing the non-partisan report as a key resource for legislators to review: ACLU of Florida, James Madison Institute, Florida, State University Project on Accountable Justice, Florida Juvenile Justice Association, Florida PTA, and Joseph W. & Terrell S. Clark.

The Caruthers Institute (CI) is a nonprofit think-tank that conducts research, crafts solutions and leads advocacy on emerging youth issues for the purpose of data-driven social change.

CI’s studies, best practices and program models inform data-driven decision-making with legislation as well as with policy, systems and environment changes. Tampa Bay-based CI is a national thought-leader on its three issues of expertise, which include: Juvenile civil citations, child obesity, and K-12 education foundations. Visit for more info.

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