This paper entitled “Florida: Addressing the Juvenile Delinquency through Crime Prevention Policies” is aimed at determining the appropriateness of the existing policy of the State of Florida relating to the prevention of the growing rate in juvenile delinquency arrests. Needless to say, despite the significant decrease in the number of juvenile arrests in Florida, it continuous to be the highest in the United States . Legislative and historical records show that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice used to apply the rehabilitative model of justice system. Nevertheless, it has been proven ineffective. Over the years, the State of Florida has enforced several revisions into the juvenile delinquency policy shifting to the preventive model because of the perceived advantage of the said model to decreasing the incidence of juvenile delinquency which in return will significantly pull down the number of incarcerated youths. As a proposal, this paper recommends to adapt the “two-way preventive policy” of China which greatly centers on strategizing, continuous study and education to help address the possible occurrence of juvenile crimes.
Over the last five years beginning in 2010, the incidence of juvenile offenses has significantly increased in the State of Florida as reported by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. According to statistics gathered by the department from 2010 to 2013, the number of arrests has decreased by 23% from 108,407 to 83,494 . While the statistics continues to drop, juvenile delinquency in the state of Florida is still among the highest within the United States as documented by Office of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. According to the said national institution, Florida, along with Delaware, Maine, Nevada and Virginia all generating 100% in the number of juvenile arrests in 2012 . Thus, proving that while there is a significant decrease in the values concerning juvenile delinquency, it is still insufficient to actually assume that it is effectively managed.
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice functions as a juvenile detention facility that accommodates arrested minors who committed crimes. Given this structure, the department adapts a “rehabilitative” model of enforcing justice. Initially, the goal of the Department is to rectify bad behaviors and ensure that the youth are restored back to the community as reformed individuals. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice decided to maintain a social service framework similar to the one being utilized by the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services to which the department has collaborated. This setup has been the very foundation of the institution from the time that it was institutionalized. While the department has shifted from the social service model beginning 1994, it continues to implement the rehabilitative model. Nevertheless, many social analysts and scholars find this model ineffective in controlling the number of juvenile delinquents in the State of Florida. In fact, some identified the model as a contributing factor to the state’s inability to control and manage the growing incidence of juvenile delinquents. In lieu with the given contingency, it is the purpose of this paper to evaluate the existing policy addressing the issue on the growing incidence of juvenile delinquents in the State of Florida. The paper would like to assess the merits of the proposal to change the model and the existing policy of rehabilitative approach of managing the growing rates of juvenile arrests to a preventive approach or model. This will be facilitated by cross reviewing the existing policy which is rehabilitative in nature versus the proposal of adapting a juvenile crime preventive model.
The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice System
History of the Institution
Prior to the establishment of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice all the activities and concerns regarding children are being communicated to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). Similar to the HRS, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice also adapted a rehabilitative model of justice system which is an approach that extends assistance and social services to children and their families. Nevertheless, the HRS has been too overwhelmed by the amount of workload that the institution needs to address from child abuse to delinquency cases.
For the purpose of specialization and to address the growing incidence of crimes involving the youths, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice decided to shift away from the HRS. This shift was designed to pave the way for the institution to concentrate in the growing need to address the pressing concern on juvenile delinquency. The Department of Juvenile Justice was created through a State Legislature that appropriated for the adequate transition of the department from the HRS Juvenile Justice Program. The legislature provided for the transfers of powers, duties, property, records, personnel, and unexpended balances of related appropriations and other funds from the HRS Juvenile Justice Program Office to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Nevertheless, despite the transfer the Department of Juvenile Justice still continued the approach that it previously used in handling children who are caught and arrested for delinquency, which is applying treatment and reform.
Existing Predicament on the Juvenile Delinquency Justice System
Florida Governor Rick Scott brags how Florida now has the lowest juvenile arrest, a record breaking ground in the past 30 years . According to records, there has been an 8% decrease in the total number of juvenile arrests in the State of Florida from 2013 to 2014. Cumulatively, over the past five years the total decrease in the numbers of juvenile arrest has amounted to 36%. This also includes a significant drop in probation violations and school-based arrest. The local state government of Florida attributes the continuous drop in juvenile delinquency to the implemented multi-year reform initiative that was aimed towards decreasing the number of arrests in juvenile delinquency cases.
Nevertheless, Florida continues to have the highest record of juvenile delinquency in all of the United States. In fact, it ranked first along with the states of Delaware, Maine, Nevada and Virginia, all with 100% rate of juvenile arrests . This contributes for the highest number of juvenile offenders incarcerated in several juvenile correction facilities within the state. In lieu with this, a new policy designed to reduce the number of incarcerated juvenile is being conceptualized by the government. So far, Governor Rick Scott is still working on this plan to push for a policy for legislation.
Pre-existing Policy on Juvenile Delinquency
As stipulated in Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes, the juvenile delinquency program of the State of Florida was incorporated in the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services’ Juvenile Justice Program. According to the said provision, the local government of Florida would address the problem of child delinquency as part of the social services for children and their family no less than how the HRS addresses the issues of child abuse and other domestic issues involving the youth.
A legislature helped create an independent department that would address the issues of juvenile delinquent cases. However, the department still adapted the same provisions under Chapter 39, which makes the institution adapt a rehabilitative model. Instead of punishing arrested youths who were charged of a crime, the DJJ rather institutionalized the youth offenders to offer treatment and rehabilitate them. Nevertheless, there were clamors supported by studies that delinquency cannot be effectively managed nor can it be controlled through rehabilitation . In fact, it is not an effective deterrent for crime nor is it an effective crime prevention policy.
However, in 1997 changes in the provisions of Chapter 39 has been made. New Legislature to adapt Chapter 984 and 985 had been introduced. The two new chapters were designed to divide the children and families in need of services cases with the juvenile delinquency cases. This continued until 2000 when the local government decided to implement major changes in the organizational structure of the Department of Juvenile Justice. The amendments contain provisions that was incorporated in what was referred to as the Tough Love Plan. The plan authorizes the DJJ to implement organizational structural changes within the institution. Included in the changes that they were given authority to implement includes aggressively shifting from the social service model to a system that adapts a punitive criminal justice approach. This would relate that the DJJ would no longer treat the youth offenders as though they are ill with a psychological disorder but they will be treated as criminals for having committed a crime and be incarcerated. However, while this might sound a little too harsh and scary, the Tough Love Plan was philosophical and operationally different from the criminal justice system implemented among adult offenders.
After the initial outcome of the Tough Love Plan, there had been additional inclusions which were perceived to further strengthen the campaign against juvenile delinquency. This was in reference to Florida Statute section 985.02 (3), which mandates the creation of a statewide comprehensive services and programs relating to the (a) prevention, (b) early intervention, (c) control, (d) rehabilitative treatment of behaviors associated with delinquency. These services and programs are organized under five distinct and specialized groups namely—the (a) administrative services, (b) prevention and victim services, (c) detention services, (d) probation and community intervention, and (e) residential services.
Updated Policy on Juvenile Delinquency Crime Prevention Policy
As per Senate Bill 700, the State of Florida has enforced the law which took effect last July 1, 2014. The said SB 700 had been passed with a unanimous vote of 38-0 from the House of Senate and a 115-0 vote from the House of Congress. The Bill, which had been passed into law contains revisions to Chapter 985 of the Florida Statute. The revisions provided for the following inclusions:
Creating an individual statute that would center on prevention
Aims to expand the transition of services
Facilitate for the creation of evening reports and other alternatives that would secure detention.
On the other hand, HB 7035 call for an active review of enforcing preventive model in the juvenile delinquent criminal prevention system to lessen the number of criminal arrests that results to incarceration without compromising the safety and securing of the youth and the community . This is made effective through the review of crime committed and the giving the judge the capacity to review the crime utilizing several factors before determining whether life imprisonment is appropriate for the crime that has been committed.
Policy Option and Research Analysis
China has one of the most effective and highly structured juvenile delinquency justice system in the world. In fact, in 2006 China has been featured in an international magazine called Crime and Justice. The magazine centered on a study that was conducted on the incidence of juvenile delinquency in the country. According to the study, one of the reasons why the system is effective is because the government continuous to study the different elements that had been identified as major risk factors to juvenile crime incidence . The study featured a discrepancy in the published statistics contradicting one report to another. Nevertheless, the Chinese government is very much aware that majority of the crimes (roughly around 70%) are committed by individuals below 25 years old (Wang, 2006, p.5). 80% of these crimes that involved the youth is larceny or theft. After extensive examination it was revealed that the number one reason that majority of arrested youth named to have motivated them to commit crime was social problems. These social problems include unemployment, broken families, poverty and peer pressure.
China’s solution to the problem is a well-strategized social policy and comprehensive management. China begins with a social policy that was initiated in 1999. However, from 1999 onwards, the said social policy has undergone numerous revisions. These revisions are always supported by studies aimed towards the identification of a problem and the trends in crime and justice that typically involves the youth. Majority of these studies are also aimed at identifying the factors that caused the behavior and majority of these are sourced from arrested youth offenders themselves for a more reliable data. For example in the study Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Juveniles from the Juvenile Justice System to the Adult Justice System: A Systematic Review, the authors included a study of China’s Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Policy being one of the countries that institutionalized the transfer of minor offenders to the adult correctional facility .
China adapts a “two-hand policy” which responds to two distinct factors that predominantly impacts the youth’s behavior and their perceptions . First on their strategy formulation is to review and evaluate the global issues which may influence insiders from responding aggressively. At the same time, situations from within the boarders are also considered, which makes up the second part of the strategy. If one would recall a period in history when China closed its door against the outside world, limiting even trade and foreign relations in pursuit of restoring the country’s social and political structure, this is a similar approach implemented under the two-hand policy.
On the other hand, comprehensive management focuses on six aspects of society including prevention. These aspects included (a) crackdown, (b) prevention, (c) education, (d) management, (e) construction, and (f) reform (Wang, 2006, pp. 9-10). While prevention is a separate aspect of the comprehensive management strategy of China in its juvenile delinquency crime prevention program, education also forms an integral preventive measures. In fact, according to China’s social policy on juvenile delinquency, the best approach is removing the factors that could cause instability, while at the same time removing the things that could is proven doubtful as far as safety and security are concerned. In addition, the government believed that by mobilizing the community and organizing vigilant social participation, the preventive measures are better executed and implemented. China’s policy also believe in mediation more than social contradiction because the latter would only intensify the already aggravated situation . Part of this preventive measure is also to enforce the safety of community through conducting a surveillance and survey of the environment. Example of this is conducting a survey of the different schools and educational institution where majority of the youth can be found. The survey will include knowing the demographics and risk factors within the environment. After assessing the schools, the Department of Juvenile Justice can now make recommendations on the degree and intensity of crime prevention training that will be appropriated to the community. A typical crime prevention training is inclusive of familiarity of the student’s background, adjusting school management, facilitating rules concerning student behavior, profiling the most recent local criminal situations and finally, aiding students in navigating a safe route to and from the school (Wang, 2006, p.9).
Also part of the two-way prevention policy of China is education. Wang defined education as “strengthening of the moral and legal education among all the citizens, especially the youthwhile raising their cultural and ethical standards and promoting their awareness of the law” (2006, pp.9-10). Education of the youth includes educating the possible perpetrators as well as the possible victims. However, the set of information transmitted to both audience varies—the potential perpetrators are educated about the ways to prevent committing the crime and carrying out the crime, while the possible victims are educated on how they can protect themselves from possible assault and abuse (Wang, 2006, p. 10).
Conclusion and Recommendation
After extensive review of China’s policy relating to the prevention of juvenile delinquency and the further increasing rate of arrested and incarcerated minors, it has come to the conclusion that an effective solution to the problem is enforcing an active preventive policy that is fashioned from effective strategizing. The effectiveness of China’s system is based on the continuous effort of the department to know and familiarize themselves with the trends in criminality of both the international and local community. Furthermore, the two-way prevention policy that educates the youth, both as perpetrator and victim is an effective measure because it serves as a deterrent at least to the finality of the crime being committed if the potential victims are duly informed of how they can avoid being victimized.
Therefore, it is recommended to adapt the same policy that China implements in Florida. However, the existing policy of reviewing the sentence of arrested youth offenders is also perceived effective because it will accord the appropriate length and kind of punishment to the offender. At the same time, it can assess whether incarceration is, in fact, the best options to a given situation.
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