The creation of the state budget is entering the final stretch where the many and varied differences between the
Senate and House versions must be ironed out. Many horrors await our children and families and a slew of other
constituencies too under the shortsighted pretext of "reigning in government".
Caught in the cross-hairs in the fight over public safety is juvenile justice. An action and message is recommended
below. The full story follows.
At the helm of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice for only several weeks now is Ms.
Wansley Walters. She is a passionate and energetic leader and has presented a credible
vision for the juvenile justice system based on research, best practice, the solid work of the
Juvenile Justice Blueprint Commission, and her own experience.
Walters desires to reign in the inappropriate penetration of misdemeanant youth into detention
centers and deeper end residential lock-ups where one wouldn’t expect children with these low
level public safety risks to be found. But they wind up there by the thousands each year.
It’s a situation complicated by the fact that Florida has gutted community-based mental health, alcohol and
substance abuse services for children. Judges commit children into residential programs in order for them to
receive services which should have been provided in the community long before the kids reach court. Not all judges
of course are so charitably minded and their commitment decisions seem to be based on something other than the
“best interest of the child”. Regardless, the majority of children would be better off if treated in the community and
the long term results would improve also as Walters has testified in front of numerous legislative committees.
Walters’ good plan however has hit a brick wall. Legislators who oversee the public safety budget like the idea of
cost-saving by cutting back residential slots but aren't excited about paying for children to be cared for in the
community. It’s the classic "ba it and "switch". Eliminate inappropriate and costly settings but don’t transfer the
money to faithfully complete the transaction
The amount to be cut from residential slots is between $40
and $51 million depending on whether you are looking at the
Senate or House budget. Walters’ staff has calculated a need
for $12 million of the savings to be re-invested in her agency
to make her plan work. The miserly Senate says she can
have only $2.9 million. The House isn’t generous either at $3
million. Walters also needs $1.5 million for electronic
monitoring as an alternative to detention. The House is stuck
at $250,000 and the Senate’s at $500,000.
The Children's Campaign believes the dollar amount required
to appropriately serve misdemeanants in the community is
closer to $ 20 million. We support Walter’s position anyhow
because it’s based on an analysis of the service needs of the
kids, even if we believe the reinvestment numbers arrived at
are a bit too conservative.
THE INJUSTICE DEEPENS
While we’re talking about the budget and at the risk
of making your blood boil worse than it is already,
there’s a more egregious injustice about to take
place. We’re referring to the disproportionate cut
to the Department of Juvenile Justice relative to the
size of the reduction to the Department of
Corrections if the public safety budget passes in its
DJJ currently has an annual budget of about $600 million. The DOC budget hovers around $2.3 billion. With the
DJJ budget being about a quarter the size of DOC's, one would think, as a starting point, DOC would receive 4 times
the size of any budget cuts. A strong case could be made that since kids who fail in juvenile justice are the most
likely to become adult prisoners, beefing up investments in favor of the children would be Smart Justice.
Throw thoughts about fairness and logic out the window regardless of the pre-session hullabaloo about reforming
adult corrections. It appears that many of the groups who got the discussion going have since walked away from the
fight, having spent money plucked from the philanthropic sector for little or nothing.
If the current Senate version passes, the total DJJ budget for next year would go down by $85 million or 14%. The
House reduction is $107 million or about 17%. DOC by contrast would be cut by only 8.1% in the Senate and 6.7%
in the House.
These percentages are important because we’re talking about millions and millions of dollars. DJJ and DOC
compete with each other in the public safety budget which also includes groups like FDLE, State Attorneys, Public
Defenders, and other criminal justice entities. The DJJ percentage cut is far higher than any of those mentioned
It is nearly impossible to envision Florida’s juvenile justice system being run on only $500 million. A couple of years
ago the DJJ budget was nearly $700 million. Every one of those dollars lost was shifted to DOC instead. The
Blueprint Commission bemoaned the gaps in services. Those gaps have widened into ravenous holes.
While DOC is receiving preferential treatment, front-end services in juvenile justice like PACE Center for Girls,
Children in Need of Services / Families in Need of Services, day treatment, juvenile assessment centers, intensive
diversion, redirections, conditional release and aftercare are receiving cuts to their core. The range is between 5%
and 15% based on who is interpreting the numbers. Are you screaming yet?
A NASTY BILL
One of the worst juvenile justice bills in decades is SB 2112 which sprung up in the Senate
Budget Committee of all places instead of Criminal Justice which deals with substantive
This bad bill would literally whisk us back more than thirty years to the time when children were placed in wings of
county jails instead of juvenile detention centers. Worse, this bad bill exempts jailers from oversight by the
Department of Juvenile Justice or even having the jail employees trained in Protective Action Response (PAR) to
It gets worse. Children will be isolated, restrained, and Tasered just as adult detainees are. One bad bill and we
could go back to the time when the reform effort began.
Driving this retreat is money, of course, brought on by an unfairness and even arrogance exacted on the cash-
strapped counties who pay for pre-adjudication juvenile detention but have had no say in the process. Their goal is
to get it done more cheaply than it is costing them now. Two wrongs do not make a right.
The fate of this bill appears to rest in conference committee. It is important to weigh in and oppose this detention
Call and write your own legislator(s).
Call and write legislative leadership.
30-second verbal or written message: I oppose the Detention bill (SB 2112) that would undo thirty years of progress
in taking care of troubled children. I support $13.5 million to be added to the DJJ budget to support Wansley
Walters’ plan for misdemeanant youth. I am upset that the Department of Corrections is receiving preferential
treatment over children. Fix that part of the budget too. Thank you.
OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST – Content and Status
HB 997, The Civil Citation Bill, passed its final committee, House Judiciary, unanimously and has been placed on the
Calendar on second reading. The bill requires that a civil citation or similar diversion program be established at the
local level, and restricts the program to only first-time misdemeanor offenders while requiring juveniles participating
in the program to participate in no more than 50 community service hours and intervention services as indicated by
an assessment of the juvenile’s needs it also provides that the issuance of a civil citation is not considered a referral
to DJJ. Similar bill, SB 1300 is now in Senate Budget Committee scheduled to be heard on 4/13 at 1:30pm.
The Community-based Juvenile Justice bill, SB 2114, is in messages between the House and Senate. The House
has failed to concur and acceded to request for conference committee with the addition of an amendment from
The bill requires DJJ to establish a minimum of two pilot sites where a community-based juvenile justice system will
be implemented for two years and to contract with a regional coordinating agency (RCA) for the delivery,
administration, and management of the following juvenile justice services: intervention, prevention, assessment
centers, diversion programs, civil citation, home detention, alternatives to detention, community-based services,
probation, day treatment, independent living, evidenced-based programs, residential programming, and detention.
The Glorioso amendment includes language that supports the Misdemeanant legislation that is moving through the
This Juvenile Justice Frontburner brought to you by:
Roy Miller, President
The Children's Campaign
For more information visit our website at www.iamforkids.org, or
Linda Alexionok, Executive Director
copyright © 2006 Children's Campaign, Inc.
487 E. Tennessee St. | Suite 1 | Tallahassee, FL 32301
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