According to this article from the News Service of Florida, lawmakers and justice officials are collaborating to come up with ways to increase the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system in Florida, and it appears as though positive changes are the focus in Florida.
Lawmakers recognize that education is key to creating productive future citizens. Kids breaking the law have opportunities for growth when given skill sets and education as a part of their punishment or treatment. As well, there appears to be awareness on the part of Florida officials that it is not cost effective to lock up every juvenile offender and that incarceration need not be the default response.
Furthermore, the story details how stakeholders in the process are focused on getting a real return on every valuable tax dollar invested in juvenile justice. A review of the administrative fee, charged by school districts to juvenile justice centers who are educating youth in their custody, may reveal unnecessary excesses in the system. Eliminating these excesses is central to cost-efficient, effective justice.
Reforms are certainly needed in Florida’s juvenile justice system. Recidivism rates in Florida vary wildly between group homes and traditional detention facilities, with an average rate of 44%. The solution to this problem is not indiscriminately handing out more tax dollars, but rather moving the juvenile justice system towards targeted, evidence-based reform and rehabilitation for juvenile offenders, with an eye towards cost reductions and productive citizenship. For example, Right on Crime’s Marc Levin has written about cost-effective juvenile justice reforms of this very sort in Texas, a path which Florida appears to be soon to join.