Mike Fasano: Senate realizes value in juvenile justice reform
Mike Fasano My View Published: April 12. 2011 2:00AM
Re: "Juvenile justice: fact, fiction and reform" (My View, April 4)

I read Jon Jefferson's My View, and while I agree with the majority of
the column, I have to respectfully disagree with the picture of
disparity he paints between the Florida Senate and the Florida House of
Representatives regarding juvenile justice reform.

I agree with Mr. Jefferson in that the travesties that occurred within
the Dozier School for Boys were deplorable. No child, regardless of
what crime may have been committed, deserves to be treated that way,
and we have taken many steps and measures to make sure a case like
Dozier never happens in this state again. I feel strongly about this
situation, so this year I filed Senate Bill 44, which provides relief
and compensation to those victims who were abused at Dozier.
Furthermore, we have been working with the Department of Juvenile
Justice to likely close Dozier in the near future, for a number of
reasons.

I would like to make it clear that we here in the Senate agree with the
governor and the House in our aim to create a reduction in the number
of DJJ beds. The money saved by doing that would be distributed to
front-end programs in order to keep kids out of a facility when it is
not necessary to house them in one. In fact, the Senate budget does not
currently include a cut to these front-end programs, whereas the House
budget does.

Though we believe that the misdemeanant bill is a good idea, we also
need to make sure that we don't disregard what those permanent beds are
there to do: help a child who may have problems to get better, not
punish the child severely. Many times, children committed to beds by
judges are coming from an extremely uncontrolled environment, not
unlike the environment of Dozier. The goal of modern juvenile justice
is to put these children into a controlled space where they can get
back on track and become functioning and successful members of society.
If we can do this while increasing the utilization of our front-end
programs for prevention and lowering recidivism for misdemeanants, we
can save the state money and also give our children the proper help and
where they need.

Our ultimate goal is to aid DJJ in looking at ways to reduce the number
of permanent beds. Whether it be through new legislation, such as the
misdemeanant bill, or utilizing the department's rankings of the worst
beds in our system (both public and private), we are aiming to keep the
high performing/low cost programs and cut the inefficient ones.
We are looking forward to the budget conference, where we will work
with the House, the Governor's Office and the department to come up
with a plan that works for everyone, most importantly, our children.
he events that took place at Dozier can never happen again, and
through our budget plan, we are hopeful that they never will.

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