Florida is a national outlier with regards to how it treats kids in the criminal justice system.
More children languish in Florida’s adult jails and prison facilities than in 28 other states combined.
In fact, Florida transfers kids as young as 14 to adult court at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country.
Florida’s legislators had a chance to shed the state’s shameful reputation this month, but, despite the fact that several polls indicate that nearly three-quarters of the public supports changing the way juveniles are treated, they failed to act.
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They ignored the latest scientific research, which shows that children’s brains are not fully developed until they reach their mid-20s.
The research also explains why kids struggle with impulse control and are more susceptible to peer pressure.
Legislators also failed to acknowledge that adult prisons aren’t safe for kids, either.
Even though kids make up only one percent of the jail population, they endure 21 percent of jail victimization, which just increases the chance that they will re-offend in the future.
This session, the Florida Legislature had an opportunity to ensure that juvenile offenders receive age-appropriate punishments, as well as the treatment and support they need to turn their lives around.
But they were lobbied by prosecutors who think that harsher punishments for kids will solve everything — a tought-on-crime practice begun back in the 1990s.
Failing to break this cycle of incarceration comes at a huge cost — to taxpayers and our communities, mainly our impoverished ones.
Not only does this approach fail to increase public safety, but it is also a moral failure for society and our young people.
Let’s hope that next session our representatives can do better.